New foreign trade figures highlight opportunities for global growth
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: gov.cn]
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.