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SCIO briefing on China's imports and exports in 2018

Press Conference

A press conference was held Monday on China's imports and exports in 2018.

China.org.cnUpdated: January 15, 2019

Li Kuiwen, spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs, and director general of the Department of Statistics & Analysis

Hu Kaihong, spokesperson for the State Council Information Office of China

Jan. 14, 2019

Hu Kaihong:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to this SCIO briefing. Starting today, we will hold a series of briefings to introduce the statistical data of China's economic performance for the full year of 2018. Today, we are delighted to invite Mr. Li Kuiwen, spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs, and director general of the Department of Statistics & Analysis, to talk about the state of China's imports and exports in 2018. He will also answer questions of interest to you. 

Now, I will give the floor to Mr. Li.

Li Kuiwen:

Before taking your questions, I would like to give you a brief introduction of the general situation with China's foreign trade imports and exports in 2018.

In 2018, under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, all localities and departments actively implemented a series of policies and measures to promote the stable growth of foreign trade, effectively responding to the profound changes in the external environment. During the year, foreign trade remained stable overall and saw steady growth, with the import and export scale reaching a record high. Therefore, China is expected to maintain its position as the world's largest trader in goods. According to customs statistics, the total value of China's foreign trade, imports and exports together, was 30.51 trillion yuan in 2018, an increase of 9.7 percent from 2017. Of that, exports grew 7.1 percent to 16.42 trillion yuan, while imports went up 12.9 percent to 14.09 trillion yuan, and the foreign trade surplus shrank 18.3 percent to 2.33 trillion yuan. Priced in terms of U.S. dollars, China's total foreign trade value was US$4.62 trillion in 2018, up 12.6 percent. Exports amounted to US$2.48 trillion of that, up 9.9 percent, and imports were US$2.14 trillion, up 15.8 percent from the previous year. The foreign trade surplus stood at US$351.76 billion, shrinking 16.2 percent. Specifically, the foreign trade situation presents the following characteristics.

First, imports and exports have seen a steady upswing, reaching a combined value of 10 trillion yuan for the first time in 2005, then 20 trillion yuan in 2010. In 2018, the volume hit a new height by exceeding 30 trillion yuan, 2.7 trillion yuan more than the previous year.

Second, imports and exports of general trade grew rapidly as well, representing an increased proportion. The volume reached 17.64 trillion yuan last year, a growth of 12.5 percent year over year. This constituted 57.8 percent of the country's entire imports and exports, 1.4 percentage points higher than the ratio in 2017, indicating an improvement of trade structures.

Third, China's imports and exports with major trade partners secured overall growth. China maintains good cooperative momentum with countries along the Belt and Road. Trade with China's top three partners, namely the European Union, the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), increased by 7.9 percent, 5.7 percent and 11.2 percent respectively in 2018. In combination, these accounted for 41.2 percent of China's total imports and exports. At the same time, trade with the countries along the Belt and Road reached 8.37 trillion yuan in aggregation, up 13.3 percent year over year and 3.6 percentage points higher than the country's holistic trade growth. The potential of trade partnerships between China and countries along the Belt and Road has continued to evolve, forming a new driving force behind the country's foreign trade as a whole. Specifically, imports and exports to Russia, Saudi Arabia and Greece increased by 24 percent, 23.2 percent and 33 percent, respectively. 

Fourth, the import and export of private enterprises have increased, and their proportion of China's total imports and exports has also grown. In 2018, the import and export of private enterprises in China was 12.1 trillion yuan, an increase of 12.9 percent compared to 2017. Private enterprises accounted for 39.7 percent of China's total imports and export value, an increase of 1.1 percentage points over 2017. Exports were valued 7.87 trillion yuan, an increase of 10.4 percent. Private sector exports continued to dominate the Chinese export market, accounting for 48 percent of the total export market, an increase of 1.4 percentage points over 2017. Meanwhile, imports reached 4.23 trillion yuan, an increase of 18.1 percent. In 2018, the contribution of private enterprises in China to the growth of foreign trade imports and exports exceeded 50 percent, which became a highlight of China's foreign trade development. During the same period, the import and export of foreign-invested enterprises were 12.99 trillion yuan, an increase of 4.3 percent, accounting for 42.6 percent of China's total imports and exports. The import and export of state-owned enterprises were 5.3 trillion yuan, an increase of 16.8 percent, accounting for 17.4 percent of China's total imports and exports.

Fifth, the growth rate of imports and exports in the central, western, and the northeastern regions was higher than the overall national growth rate, and regional development was more coordinated. In 2018, the growth rate of foreign trade in the 12 provinces and cities in the west registered at 16.1 percent, exceeding the national growth rate by 6.4 percentage points. The growth rate of foreign trade in the six provinces and cities in the central region was 11.4 percent, exceeding the national growth rate by 1.7 percentage points. The growth rate of foreign trade in the three northeastern provinces was 14.8 percent, exceeding the national growth rate by 5.1 percentage points. Finally, the growth rate of foreign trade in the 10 eastern provinces and cities stood at 8.8 percent.

Sixth, mechanical and electrical products took a larger share of China's exports, and the export commodity structure has been further optimized. In 2018, exports of mechanical and electrical products amounted to 9.65 trillion yuan, an increase of 7.9 percent, accounting for 58.8 percent of China's total exports. And this percentage grew by 0.4 percentage points from 2017. China's automotive exports grew by 8.3 percent and cellular phone exports by 9.8 percent. Toys, garments and five additional labor-intensive products exported by China in 2018 reached a combined total of 3.12 trillion yuan, which is 1.2 percent more than last year, accounting for19 percent of the total.

Seventh, both the import price and volume of oil, gas, copper and other commodities are on the rise, while the import volume of iron ore and soybean have fallen. China's import of crude oil amounted to 462 million tons, gas 90.39 million tons, refined oil products33.48 million tons and copper 5.3 million tons, up 10.1, 31.9, 13 and 12.9 percent from last year, respectively. On the other hand, the import of iron ore fell by 1 percent to 1.064 billion tons and soybeans fell by 7.9 percent to 88.03 million tons. Preliminary estimates indicate that the China's import prices on the whole increased by 6.1 percent in 2018, and that the import price of oil grew by 30 percent, refined oil products by 20 percent, gas by 22.9 percent and copper by 3.2 percent.

In 2019, the General Administration of Customs will be guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, fully implement the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress and the second and third plenary sessions of the 19th CPC Central Committee and commit to the arrangements of the Central Economic Work Conference. Sticking to an overall tone of making progress while maintaining stability, we will work to stabilize employment, the financial sector, foreign trade, foreign and domestic investments, and expectations, and promote various customs reforms with a focus on optimizing the business environment at ports and promoting higher quality while maintaining stability in foreign trade to better serve the socioeconomic development of the nation.

Now, I'm ready to take your questions.

Hu Kaihong:

Thank you, Mr. Li. Now, the floor is open. Please identify the media outlet you represent before raising questions.


Director Li, can you summarize China's foreign trade performance in 2018? What do you think are the new features and highlights of China's foreign trade development during the past year? Thank you.

Li Kuiwen:

Thank you for your question. China's foreign trade achieved steady growth in 2018; the scale of imports and exports reached a new historical high; and quality and efficiency were further improved.

The achievements were hard-won and based on the following five aspects:

First, the business environment is friendly. Last year, China introduced a series of policies and measures to reduce taxes and optimize the business environment at ports; therefore the level of foreign trade facilitation has significantly improved. According to the "Doing Business 2019" report released by the World Bank, China has advanced 32 ranks in business environment, and the cross-border trade made a progress from the 97th position to the 65th position, also 32 advancing ranks. In addition, China increased its export tax rebate rate of some commodities two times last year, and lowered import tariffs on medicines, automobiles and accessories, daily consumer goods; thus promoting the increase of exports and imports.

Second, there has been an increase in foreign trade enterprises. The Chinese economy maintained a steady growth in 2018 and operated within its proper range; this provided a good environment for foreign trade development. According to our statistics, the number of enterprises with actual import and export performances has increased from 436,000 in 2017 to 470,000 now.

Third, the wide range of trade partners. In 2018, China's foreign trade market became more diversified. In the process of maintaining growth with traditional trade partners, China also proactively encouraged exchanges with other countries and regions. In 2018, the import and export growth rate with countries along the Belt and Road routes, Africa and Latin America, was respectively 3.6, 6.7 and 6 percentage points higher than the total imports and exports growth rate. 

Four, the growth momentum has been strong. In terms of quantity and price factors, import and export growth was strong in 2018. According to estimates by the General Administration of Customs, China's import quantity index was 106.4 and the export quantity index was 103.6. The contribution rate of import and export both exceeded 50 percent, and the growth momentum became more solid.

Five, high quality and efficiency. China's import and export proceeded in a more balanced way with more coordinated regional development and improved product structure. From the perspective of products, the export of some mechanical and electrical products and equipment manufacturing products maintained great growth momentum. For example, the export of metal processing machines grew by 19.2 percent; mobile phones grew by 9.8 percent and automobiles increased by 8.3 percent. The import of equipment, key parts and components of high-quality consumer goods also grew rapidly. For example, integrated circuits increased by 16.9 percent; consumer goods increased by 10.9 percent, and aquatic and marine products increased by 39.9 percent respectively. The quality and efficiency of both imports and exports improved to a great extent.

That's all of my opinions regarding China's foreign trade situation in 2018.

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