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Foreign trade on strong footing

By Ren Xiaojin and Zhong Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-09 07:36
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Containers being unloaded at the Qingdao port in Shandong province. [Photo by Yu Shaoyue /  For China Daily]

Seasonal factors to blame for slower growth rate in first 2 months of 2019

China's foreign trade continued to show momentum despite disruptions due to the Spring Festival holiday and lingering trade tensions in the first two months of the year, experts said.

According to General Administration of Customs data released on Friday, China's foreign trade volume topped 4.54 trillion yuan ($674 billion) in the first two months, up 0.7 percent year-on-year. Imports and exports grew by 1.5 percent and 0.1 percent to 2.12 trillion yuan and 2.42 trillion yuan respectively, compared to the same period a year ago.

The foreign trade volume in February amounted to 1.81 trillion yuan, down 9.4 percent year-on-year. Exports dropped by 16.6 percent to 922.76 billion yuan, while imports showed a slight decrease of 0.3 percent to 888.3 billion yuan.

"Slower growth was mainly due to business disruptions during the Spring Festival holiday and the lack of clear signals in the trade dispute with the United States," said Huo Jianguo, the vice-chairman of the China Society for WTO Studies.

After deducting the Spring Festival impact, the trade volume in February climbed 10.2 percent year-on-year, according to the GAC data.

Huo added that fluctuations in the currency exchange rate affected trade last month and expects the trade volume to pick up in March.

Wang Xiaosong, a researcher with the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China, said the trade disruption was due to the holidays, decline in the demand from overseas markets and trade dispute concerns.

"Spring Festival was the major factor, and if we rule that out, we can see trade is still growing," he said.

In the first two months, China's exports to the US dropped by 9.9 percent year-on-year to 407.53 billion yuan, while imports amounted to 117.44 billion yuan, down by 32.2 percent. The trade surplus grew by 3.9 percent year-on-year, with volume reaching 290 billion yuan.

"The markets in developed countries have seen certain declines, and with rising trade protectionism, the demand for imports was reduced," Wang said.

Foreign trade from the country's private sector has seen an uptick in the first two months by 4.4 percent year-on-year to 1.84 trillion yuan, accounting for 40.6 percent of the country's total. In the meantime, trade volume from foreign invested companies dropped by 2.7 percent to 1.86 trillion yuan.

"The entire first quarter of 2019 will see a low trade growth rate, reflecting some seasonal negative factors, such as companies rushing to export before the Spring Festival," Liu Yaxin, an analyst at China Merchants Securities, said.

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