Business / Economy

ODI, service trade numbers salvage lackluster foreign

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-08-18 10:55

China's non-financial outbound direct investment (ODI) and services trade have emerged as shining spots in otherwise lackluster foreign trade figures.

China's ODI soared to 673.24 billion yuan (about $102.75 billion) from January to July, a 61.8 percent year-on-year increase, said Shen Danyang, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce, at a press conference Wednesday.

The ODI in July alone reached 91.01 billion yuan, down 9.5 percent month on month, according to the MOC.

During the first seven months of the year, China's ODI surpassed its foreign direct investment (FDI), meaning China was a net capital exporter, Shen said.

In the first seven months of the year, China's FDI rose 4.3 percent year on year to 491.51 billion yuan, according to the MOC data.

The United States and Germany were among the most popular investment destinations for Chinese companies. In the first seven months of the year, ODI in both countries more than doubled from a year earlier.

Large overseas mergers and acquisitions (M&A) contributed to the ODI growth. During the first seven months of the year, China's overseas M&A value stood at $54.3 billion, accounting for more than half of the total ODI.

The M&A value in the first seven months of 2016 surpassed the volume registered for the whole of 2015. From January to July, there were M&As by Chinese enterprises in 63 countries and regions, covering 15 sectors, including information transmission, services, software and manufacturing.

By the end of July, China's accumulated investment under the Belt and Road Initiative hit $51.1 billion, accounting for 12 percent of the country's total ODI.

Launched in late 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative is an umbrella term for the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It will be a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, along ancient trade routes.

The MOC also released China's services trade data at the press conference. China's services imports and exports amounted to 2.53 trillion yuan during the first six months of the year, up 21.5 percent year on year. Exports in maintenance and repairs, advertising, finance, technology, telecommunications, and computer and information services grew rapidly.

Services trade accounted for 18.6 percent of the country's total imports and exports from January to June, 4.1 percentage points higher than the same period in 2015.

The performance of ODI and services trade are encouraging, but not enough to relieve policymakers from worry caused by the decline in overall trade data, let alone the pressures of meeting the annual economic growth target.

At an executive meeting held Tuesday, for the fourth time this year the State Council urged local authorities to intensify efforts to stabilize exports and imports, which both declined in the first seven months of the year.

Foreign trade in the first seven months of the year was 3 percent lower than a year ago, with exports going down 1.6 percent and imports down 4.8 percent, according to General Administration of Customs data.

Trade growth is vitally important for China in fulfilling its economic growth target this year, according to Zhang Jun, chief economist of Morgan Stanley Huaxin Securities.

"As it is quite challenging for China to realize its annual growth targets amid an economic slowdown, policymakers needs to stabilize foreign trade and consumption for growth, since infrastructure investment may not even fill the gap left by slowing real estate investment," said Zhang.

Investment in China's property sector in the first seven months of 2016 has started to lose momentum. From January to July, property investment rose 5.3 percent year on year, down from 6.1 percent. Property sales in the period also slowed.

To boost foreign trade, the State Council stressed that trade facilitation measures adopted by the country's free trade zones need to be duplicated and used in other regions, standards at different customs areas must be unified, and examination procedures need to be simplified.

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