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November 5, 2018

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Suzhou surges ahead in foreign trade

Over the past 40 years of reform and opening-up, Suzhou has witnessed bounding growth of foreign trade after combining its strength with the trend of international capital transfer and diving into the world labor division system.

In the flow of best distribution of commodities, technology, capital and human resources, Suzhou’s foreign trade volume has surged to over US$300 billion from US$10 billion 20 years ago.

In 2017, the city’s overall foreign trade volume was US$316 billion, up 15.5 percent from a year earlier and accounting for 7.7 percent of the national total, coming fourth among China’s major cities after Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing.

Suzhou was feeling its way in foreign trade terms in the 1980s and 1990s when its manufacturing and processing bases mainly featured agricultural produce.

In 1985, Suzhou was listed as an open coastal economic region by the State Council and granted preferential policies for opening-up. Since then it began to gradually develop foreign trade, foreign investment utilization and cooperation and development zone. Its export structure has greatly diversified, compared to the limited options of fabrics, daily ware and other light industrial items.

China’s entry to the World Trade Organization took Suzhou’s foreign trade development to a new height after 2000. In 2005, the export of electrical and high-tech products accounted for 80 and 60 percent of the city’s overall exports.

The European Union, the United States and Japan are now the top export destinations for Suzhou.

As trade sped to new highs, quality was given increasing importance.

Trade stood the test of the global financial crisis in 2008, with growth remaining slow while adjustments were made to trade structure to make it more resilient and growth has now picked again.

The updated financial environment and the recovered market have upheld the momentum. For the first half of 2018, Suzhou’s import and export value reached US$167 billion, up 16 percent compared to the same period last year.

Against such a picture, Suzhou is aiming to set out for the higher end of the global value chain with measures including accelerating new district growth and powering foreign trade development.

Suzhou now boasts of its complete infrastructure, long industrial chain and solid foundation, yet it still needs to attend to several perspectives to boost and restructure foreign trade.

Based on export brand building, Suzhou will stress quality and optimize resources distribution while trying to enhance common trade and upgrade processing trade. The improved flexibility will better deal with the international market.

Suzhou will try to coordinate domestic and foreign markets and resources while adapting to changes in China and other countries. For further expansion in import and export trade, the city will improve its public service platforms.

Yidatong, a one-stop foreign trade service platform, is under construction by e-commerce giant Alibaba. It will provide a batch of services including financing, logistics and import agents to facilitate foreign trade. Another enterprise, Jiangsu Guotai Smart Enterprise Service Co Ltd, has also launched ESMART, a similar platform to offer convenient access to foreign trade.

Domestic maintenance, distribution and logistics are set to function better and a pilot scheme for carrying out general VAT payer qualification and trade diversification will follow.

Suzhou now enables over 3,500 enterprises a year to attend more than 300 trade fairs in Guangzhou, Osaka, Russia and other parts of the world. It is also trying to promote the China (Kunshan) Import Expo and Suzhou product tour exhibition around the world.

New growth engines will be cultivated. When trade with Belt and Road Initiative countries is to be expanded, Suzhou will be actively engaged with tapping into emerging markets in Southern America, Oceania and ASEAN countries.

In this respect, the trade of market procurement will be developed, along with services for comprehensive foreign trade.

Construction of the cross-border e-commerce trade zone will be sped up. Online and offline development will be accelerated at the same time. Overseas investment is set to push foreign trade development forward. During the process, stability and sustainability will be highlighted to guarantee the trade environment, introduce new production capacity and explore new markets.

Brand building for Suzhou exports is one effort. Companies are being encouraged to be more innovative and more high-tech, supporting their products with technology and quality.

The city promotes competition to stress product quality and raise awareness in enterprises.

Trademarks, system and patent registration abroad are promoted among foreign trade enterprises. These enterprises can also purchase or rent international famous brands or build manufacturing bases in other countries.

The protection of intellectual property rights will be high on the agenda.

While cultivating independence and innovation in local brands, the city will encourage these enterprises to take a bigger share of the international market. The annual increase for the “brand” enterprises is set at 10 percent.

The Suzhou-Warsaw and Suzhou-Central Asia international railways will continue to play a significant role for import expansion. Along with the Taicang and Qiyun ports, products from Belt and Road countries will be transported to China.


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