- Senior state officials led by China’s customs office see trade expanding steadily in 2023, based on the increasing number of export containers at its seaports in the first two months of the year
- The latest weekly data from the General Administration of Customs show exports grew a better-than-expected 0.9% in January-February but still hampered by weak demand and slow payments
- In February, China’s external trade exceeded $411.2 billion, up 1.3% y-o-y, Customs data show
- Cross-border e-commerce, which grew nearly 16% y-o-y in January-February, is expected to grow vigorously, the GAC deputy minister says separately
China’s foreign trade has got off to a good start in 2023, with senior government officials on March 20 predicting steady growth this year, according to official newspaper reports from Beijing.
A gauge cited by Yu Jianhua, head of the General Administration of Customs (GAC), in reports carried by the China Daily is the increasing number of containers for export since late February. Yu addressed recent reports of empty containers piling up at Chinese ports that have sparked concerns over trade.
Yu said various factors led to the recent piling up of empty boxes at Chinese ports: overproduction of new containers in previous periods, low storage costs at domestic ports, seasonal regularity effect, and the quick return of boxes from other places since the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions abroad.
He said a large number of empty containers are ready to move across Chinese ports, showing the international market remains positive about China’s export capability in the next phase.
Weekly GAC data show although the foreign trade of goods eased 0.8% y-o-y in January-February, exports grew a better-than-expected 0.9%.
New orders and total exports of electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and solar batteries leaped in the first two months, highlighting a potential boost to trade growth in the months to come, Yu added.
But he warned against challenges such as weak external demand and slow payments from some countries. The World Trade Organization cut in October its 2023 global trade growth from 3.4% to 1%.
“Under the complex external trade climate lie opportunities, and the challenges are more global than local,” Yu said, confident of stable trade growth this year as China’s economic recovery continues.
Supported by a complete industrial chain system and multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements, China’s foreign trade exceeded $411.2 billion in February, up 1.3% y-o-y, the latest Customs data show.
In the same month, provinces such as Central China’s Hunan and East China’s Jiangxi saw exports soar 72% and 55.8% y-o-y, respectively. This year, Chinese exporters have been harnessing the business potential of emerging markets and joining major trade fairs abroad, another China Daily report said.
They have also deployed resources to develop products with high-end technology, high added value and green transformation characteristics to sustain exports, said Lin Meng, director of the Modern Supply Chain Research Institute, part of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
With China’s trade via cross-border e-commerce up nearly 16% y-o-y in January-February, the new mode of international trade will continue to grow vigorously, said Sun Yuning, GAC deputy minister.
To stabilize its foreign trade and create more growth opportunities for small and medium enterprises, 165 comprehensive cross-border e-commerce pilot zones have been set up across China. These zones cover 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, and have become important carriers and platforms for growing cross-border e-commerce, Sun said.
Zhao Zenglian, director-general of the general office, said the agency is working with all parties concerned to promote the resumption of land border ports. He said freight transport services at relevant land ports have been opened in China’s border areas, and related channels for passenger transport services are being resumed.
Zhao said the GAC will promote cooperation with countries and regions participating in the Belt and Road Initiative on the development of a “single window system” and support the exchange and sharing of cross-border trade documents to further cut Customs clearance time for domestic and foreign firms.
The “single window system” is a metaphor for streamlined administration efforts and means all export and import procedures can be done at one stop, a trade facilitation policy that speeds up cargo clearance.