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January 15, 2020

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Foreign trade soars 3.4% in 2019

CHINA’S foreign trade rose by 3.4 percent year on year to 31.54 trillion yuan (US$4.58 trillion) in 2019, according to data from the state’s customs.

Among them, exports hit 17.23 trillion yuan, an increase of 5 percent from a year earlier, while imports edged up by 1.6 percent to 14.31 trillion yuan, making the overall trade surplus soar 25.3 percent to 2.92 trillion yuan, the General Administration of Customs said yesterday.

For the first time private firms overtook foreign-funded enterprises as the biggest contributor of China’s foreign trade in 2019.

The aggregate imports and exports generated by China’s private firms went up 11.4 percent year on year to 13.48 trillion yuan.

The number accounted for 42.7 percent of the country’s total, up 3.1 percentage points from 2018. Among them, exports totaled 8.9 trillion yuan, up 13 percent, while imports grew 8.4 percent to 4.58 trillion yuan.

Foreign-invested enterprises posted foreign trade at 12.57 trillion yuan to make up 39.9 percent of the total, while imports and exports of state-owned enterprises added up to 5.32 trillion yuan, contributing 16.9 percent of the headline figure.

Zou Zhiwu, deputy director of the General Administration of Customs, said that in 2019, the development of China’s foreign trade has been generally stable with quality being gradually enhanced.

In December, China saw foreign trade surge by 12.7 percent year on year to 3.01 trillion yuan, of which exports rose 9 percent to 1.67 trillion yuan, while imports skyrocketed by 17.7 percent to 1.34 trillion yuan. The three figures hit record highs for a single month.

“The big rise in year-over-year export growth in December was mainly due to three factors: a low base in December 2018 as a result of front-loading; the recent de-escalation of the US-China trade war; and a moderate recovery of the global economy,” said Lu Ting, chief China economist of Nomura.

The European Union remained China’s largest trading partner at 4.86 trillion yuan in 2019, up 8 percent. Trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations added up to 4.43 trillion yuan, an increase of 14.1 percent, making ASEAN the second-largest trading partner of China last year.

Trade with the United States, however, posted a decline, with the value down 10.7 percent to 3.73 trillion yuan over the year.

China Customs also highlighted that foreign trade with countries along the Belt and Road had soared to 9.27 trillion yuan, an increase of 10.8 percent, which was 7.4 percentage points faster than the overall growth pace.

Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative and their comparative advantages in costs, private companies in the central and western regions of China outperformed their peers on the east coast, Zou noted.

Zou also highlighted that the structure of trade patterns had been further optimized, with the general trade expanding to 18.61 trillion yuan in 2019, accounting for 59 percent of total foreign trade, which was an 1.2 percentage points increase compared with 2018.

Processing trade, meanwhile, fell 5.1 percent to 7.94 trillion yuan, accounting for 25.2 percent.

Imports of commodities such as iron ore, crude oil, natural gas and soybean posted increases of 0.5 percent, 9.5 percent, 6.9 percent, and 0.4 percent respectively in volume.


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