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 vice-minister 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-on-year 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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