Steps will spur im­ports as trade growth slows down


China’s for­eign trade may grow at a slower pace in 2019 due to global com­plex­i­ties and uncer­tainty, while its im­ports are ex­pected to gain mo­men­tum from more fa­vor­able mea­sures, cus­toms au­thor­i­ties said on Mon­day.

Last year, China’s for­eign trade vol­ume reached a record high of 30.51 tril­lion yuan ($4.51 tril­lion), up 9.7 per­cent year-on-year, ac­cord­ing to the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cus­toms.

The coun­try’s ex­ports jumped 7.1 per­cent to 16.42 tril­lion yuan while im­ports surged 12.9 per­cent to 14.09 tril­lion yuan. The trade sur­plus con­tin­ued to nar­row, shrink­ing 18.3 per­cent.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion spokesman Li Kui­wen at­trib­uted last year’s trade ex­pan­sion to a num­ber of fa­vor­able poli­cies and mea­sures amid pro­found changes in the ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment.

In 2019, the global en­vi­ron­ment is ex­pected to re­main com­pli­cated, given that uni­lat­er­al­ism and pro­tec­tion­ism may per­sist, said Li, who’s also direc­tor-gen­eral of the De­part­ment of Sta­tis­tics and Anal­y­sis of the cus­toms ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The growth of China’s for­eign trade is likely to slow down this year, as many com­plex fac­tors and un­cer­tain­ties re­main and the com­par­i­son base is high, he said.

The coun­try will con­tinue to im­prove the qual­ity of its for­eign trade while en­sur­ing its steady growth, Li said. The cus­toms ad­min­is­tra­tion will roll out more mea­sures this year to boost im­ports, he added.

A re­cent re­port from the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences also fore­cast a slower growth rate for China’s trade in 2019. But fa­vor­able fac­tors in­clude a more proac­tive pol­icy to open up, deep­en­ing eco­nomic and trade co­op­er­a­tion with economies in­volved in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive and the ef­fects of trans­for­ma­tion and up­grad­ing, the re­port said.

Zhang Yuyan, direc­tor of the In­sti­tute of World Eco­nomics and Pol­i­tics at the academy, looked at the broader trend, pre­dict­ing that China’s trade sur­plus would grad­u­ally shrink, lead­ing to a more bal­anced sit­u­a­tion.

Wei Jian­guo, a for­mer vicem­i­nis­ter of com­merce, said de­spite the global chal­lenges, China has been con­tin­u­ing to open up, and home­grown com­pa­nies have been ex­plor­ing di­ver­si­fied mar­kets.

China will make a con­certed push to im­port more qual­ity goods and ser­vices to meet grow­ing do­mes­tic de­mand and con­trib­ute more to the global econ­omy, Wei said.

China’s trade with the Euro­pean Union, the United States and coun­tries of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions in­creased in 2018, cus­toms of­fi­cials said. Trade with these three main part­ners ac­counted for 41.2 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal vol­ume.

Trade be­tween China and the US climbed 5.7 per­cent year-onyear to 4.18 tril­lion yuan last year, ac­cord­ing to Li from the cus­toms ad­min­is­tra­tion. The coun­try’s trade sur­plus with the US widened dur­ing the pe­riod. Li said it was a re­flec­tion of their eco­nomic com­ple­men­tar­ity.

The po­ten­tial for trade co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and Belt and Road coun­tries has been con­tin­u­ally un­leashed, Li said. Among them, China’s trade vol­ume with Rus­sia, Saudi Ara­bia and Greece in­creased by 24 per­cent, 23.2 per­cent and 33 per­cent, re­spec­tively.

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