Charts show that China’s foreign trade grew 14.2% in 2017 (Xinhua / Gao Wei)
BEIJING, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) – Last year, China experienced steady trade growth through domestic and global expansion, while behind the numbers, trends are emerging that testify to changing engines of growth.
China’s foreign trade rose 14.2 percent to 27.8 trillion yuan ($ 4.3 trillion) after two years of decline.
Exports rose 10.8 percent to 15.3 trillion yuan, while imports rose 18.7 percent to 12.5 trillion yuan, according to the General Administration of Customs (GAC).
GAC spokesperson Huang Songping attributed the growth to the global economic recovery, steady national economic expansion, rising commodity prices, emerging markets along the Belt and Road, and a weak basis for comparison.
A closer look at the data reveals that a more balanced economy is gradually taking shape.
General trade, which has a higher added value than processing trade, increased both in volume and proportion in 2017, reaching 15.7 trillion yuan and accounting for 56.4% of total foreign trade, up by 1.3 percentage point compared to 2016.
The Belt and Road have expanded China’s markets, and trade with Latin American and African countries increased 22 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively, last year.
Private enterprises edged up 0.4 percentage point in their share of total trade. The private sector is the main contributor to the growth of trade.
Trade growth is more balanced between regions. Less developed regions, including central and western China and the Rust Belt, all exceeded the national average.
Electromechanical products remained a mainstay of exports, with some high added value products doing well. Exports of automobiles, computers and medical equipment increased by 27.2%, 16.6% and 10.3% respectively.
The trade surplus continued to shrink last year, declining 14.2 percent to 2.9 trillion yuan, from a 9.1 percent reduction in 2016 which recorded a trade surplus of 3.3 trillion yuan.
Imports of some key components and high quality consumer goods have increased rapidly. Integrated circuits and aquatic products are up 17.3% and 19.6%.
The growth momentum in trade is faltering as both exports and imports fell in December. Trade will come under pressure in the first quarter as surveys showed lower confidence and new orders in December. It will be difficult to maintain double-digit trade growth this year given global uncertainties and a high base of comparison, Huang said.
Strong global growth could support export growth, but an appreciation in the real effective exchange rate and increased U.S. protectionism could weigh on exports, further reducing the trade surplus, according to securities trader Nomura.