New foreign trade figures highlight opportunities for global growth

China Plus Published: 2019-04-12 21:55:06
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Note: The following article is taken from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs".

China has achieved a stable growth in foreign trade over the first three months of the year, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs on Friday. The figures show that the foreign trade of goods grew by 3.7 percent annually in the first quarter to surpass 7 trillion yuan (some 1 trillion U.S. dollars). Exports increased by 6.7 percent, while imports went up by almost one-third of one percent. Given the trade tensions between China and the United States and the slowdown in global trade, China's performance so far this year provides concrete evidence of the country's economic resilience.

The Port of Tangshan. [File photo:]

The Port of Tangshan. [File photo:]

Three key factors help to explain the figures that came out on Friday. First, China has an increasingly diversified group of trading partners. Despite the 11 percent decrease in trade between China and the United States during the first three months of the year, two-way trade with the European Union, the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and Japan increased by 11.5 percent, 8.1 percent, and 3.2 percent respectively. Trade with countries taking part in the Belt and Road Initiative also grew significantly, rising by 7.8 percent to account for 28.6 percent of foreign trade. This highlights the strength of the initiative as a force to boost trade. And China's trade with countries in Latin America and Africa is also rising. The diversity of China's trading partners reinforces its capacity to counteract the negative effects caused by the trade dispute with the United States.

Second, China's economy is moving up the global value chain. Exports of high value goods such as machinery and electronics are growing steadily as the competitiveness of these China-made products continues to improve. And the upgrading of consumption is two-way: imports of consumer goods and medical equipment have grown by more than 10 percent, which reflects the strong ongoing demand in the country's domestic market for high-quality products.

Third, imports and exports by privately-owned enterprises grew by almost 10 percent. The internal momentum of the country's private sector has become a formidable force driving the growth in foreign trade.

China's government has helped to foster these three factors over the past year by substantially broadening access to its market by reducing the number of sectors closed to foreign investment. It has sought to create a more attractive investment environment by introducing a new foreign investment law that levels the playing field for domestic and foreign-invested firms. It has introduced substantially stiffer punishments for infringements of intellectual property rights. And it has actively encouraged an expansion of imports by, among other measures, launching an annual import-focused trade show.

Ten days ago, the World Trade Organization slashed its projections for trade growth this year from 3.7 percent to 2.6 percent, the lowest level in three years. It cited increasing trade frictions and economic uncertainties as the major reasons for the change. Given the circumstances, China's stable growth in both the quantity and quality of its foreign trade in the first quarter once again points to the resilience of China's economy and its capacity to provide opportunities for other trading nations. And with the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to be held this month and the second China International Import Expo scheduled for later this year, more import opportunities are set to be up for grabs.

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.