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Exporters to focus on e-commerce, processing trade

Ships get ready for their voyages in the foreign trade container terminal of Qingdao port in Shandong province. [Photo by Yu Fangping / For China Daily]

China will create fresh momentum for exports in e-commerce and processing trade, and will actively respond to foreign restrictions in order to stabilize the country’s foreign trade growth this year, a customs official said on Tuesday.

The country will encourage more global companies from the maintenance and remanufacturing sectors to establish operations in China’s comprehensive bonded zones, support manufacturers in central, western and northeastern regions to undertake processing trade and facilitate the global expansion of cross-border e-commerce firms, said Li Kuiwen, a spokesman for the General Administration of Customs.

China’s foreign trade volume totaled 6.57 trillion yuan ($931 billion) in the first quarter of this year, falling 6.4 percent year-on-year. In the meantime, the country’s exports dropped 11.4 percent to 3.33 trillion yuan, and imports declined 0.7 percent to 3.24 trillion yuan, according to customs data released on Tuesday.

China’s foreign trade in March totaled 2.45 trillion yuan, decreasing 0.8 percent year-on-year.

The administration will strengthen its ability in dealing with foreign restrictions encountered by export-oriented companies, and guide companies to learn in advance the entry requirements and quarantine procedures of various trading partners, said Li.

With the United Kingdom having formally left the European Union at the end of January and its trade volume no longer being part of the bloc’s total amount, the customs official said that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations replaced the EU as China’s largest trading partner in the first quarter of this year.

China’s foreign trade with ASEAN member nations registered 991.34 billion yuan, an increase of 6.1 percent year-on-year, and accounting for 15.1 percent of China’s total global trade volume.

Between January and March, China’s trade with the EU was 875.93 billion yuan, down 10.4 percent year-on-year, while trade with the United States dropped 18.3 percent year-on-year to 668.01 billion yuan, and with Japan it fell 8.1 percent to 465.68 billion yuan.

China’s foreign trade with economies related to the Belt and Road Initiative rose 3.2 percent on a yearly basis to 2.07 trillion yuan during the same period.

Even though China’s foreign trade rebounded in March and most domestic manufacturers have resumed production, Zhang Jun, a senior analyst at Morgan Stanley Huaxin Securities, warned that domestic goods and machinery manufacturers may run short of orders in the second quarter or even in the second half of this year due to a decline in shopping and factory shutdowns overseas caused by the pandemic.

Wei Jianguo, vice-chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said it is time for China to highlight the roles of processing trade and cross-border e-commerce businesses to ease the pressure on general trade, which refers to imports or exports of goods. It is equally important to further tap the consumption potential in the domestic market to help Chinese exporters seek new growth points.

Processing trade refers to the business activity of importing all, or part of, the raw and auxiliary materials from abroad, and re-exporting the finished products after processing or assembly by companies within the Chinese mainland.

Wei said both exporters and the government need to intensify information exchange with the country’s long-term trading partners and maintain China’s vital position in the global industrial chain. China must pay close attention to the epidemic situation in its trading partners and the epidemic’s impact on the global supply chain and economy, he said.

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