Measures set to strengthen foreign trade
Containers await shipping at a port in Xiamen, Fujian province. [Photo by Wang Xieyun for China Daily]
Trade: Burdens of enterprises to be eased
China will step up efforts to stabilize foreign trade performance while improving the trade structure through a raft of policy measures, government officials said at a news conference on Sunday.
Experts said the country is expected to further vitalize enterprises in the foreign trade sector while forging stronger trade cooperation with developed as well as emerging economies, amid negative factors including rising protectionism and weakening global demand.
Such endeavors will expand and upgrade China's trade and also will be conducive to global economic recovery, they said.
Wang Shouwen, vice-minister of commerce and China's international trade representative, told the news conference that domestic enterprises involved in foreign trade are challenged by increases in trade risks, pressure to enhance profitability and inconveniences in participating in foreign trade fairs, though uncertainties in external demand remain the biggest issue.
"We will try hard to create more trade opportunities," he said, adding that, to that end, the country will widely resume offline trade fairs, improve the efficiency of processing APEC business travel card applications, and facilitate the orderly resumption of international passenger flights.
Wang said the country will stabilize foreign trade in key products such as automobiles, ensure development of foreign-trade enterprises, and enhance the formats and environment for foreign trade.
Key measures will include helping automakers to establish and improve their global marketing and service networks, ensuring funding for large-scale equipment projects, and accelerating the revision of the catalog of encouraged technologies and products for import.
They also will include encouraging banks to better meet financing demand from small and medium-sized foreign-trade enterprises, guiding companies that are engaged in trade processing to move to central, western and northeastern regions of the nation, and supporting the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area in developing digital trade.
Wu Haiping, director-general of the General Administration of Customs' department of general operations, said that in order to address the difficulties and bottlenecks faced by foreign-trade enterprises, the customs authority will focus on improving trade facilitation, streamlining import and export logistics, optimizing the business environment at ports, reducing enterprises' cost burdens and supporting the development of new foreign trade formats.
"We will continuously enrich, adjust and improve relevant measures and explore new customs support initiatives to support China's foreign trade this year," he said, adding that 90,000 companies registered in the first quarter of the year to engage in export and import activities, up 59.8 percent year-on-year.
According to Zhou Maohua, an analyst at China Everbright Bank, foreign-trade enterprises, especially some small and medium-sized ones, still face high costs for raw materials, difficulties in securing financing, fluctuations in the global foreign exchange market and uncertainties in external demand.
"China has a complete industrial system and resilient supply chains, and the country's foreign trade sector has gained strength in recent years due to continuous upgrades in products and trade structure, growing diversification of trading partners and development of business models including cross-border e-commerce," Zhou said.
"Yet the authorities are expected to take more actions to alleviate the burdens of enterprises and encourage them to strengthen new product research while diversifying import sources and export destinations," he added.
According to Ning Jizhe, vice-chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, China should take more actions to stabilize exports to major trading partners, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the European Union, the United States, Japan and South Korea.
At the same time, the country must further tap new market potential in economies participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, and economies in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, he said.
Enric Tria, managing director for Europe at Taurus Group, a Spanish home appliances manufacturer, said that Chinese products are known for their affordability, quality and versatility, making them a popular choice for companies around the world looking to source parts, components and finished goods.
Eager to sell more products to other parts of the world, domestic manufacturers, especially those from manufacturing and export hubs, such as Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian and Sichuan provinces, have been rushing to add technical value to their products and participate in large-scale trade fairs in domestic as well as global markets.
With the full resumption of on-site activities, the second phase of the 133rd China Import and Export Fair, also known as the Canton Fair, has attracted nearly 12,000 companies – 3,800 more than the pre-pandemic level in 2019. The fair opened on April 15 and will run through May 5.
The fair's second phase, to be held from Sunday through Thursday in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, has a total exhibition area of 505,000 square meters and over 24,000 booths featuring daily-use consumer goods, gifts and home decorations.
"At the Canton Fair, our expectation obviously is to look for new products and see what the main partners and suppliers present to us," said Tria, of Taurus Group. "We are mainly looking for any kinds of products related to small domestic appliances."
Chen Dexing, president of Wenzhou Kanger Crystallite Utensils Co, a glass and ceramic ware manufacturer in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, said the company's output in the first quarter of this year was approximately half of last year's total amount, due to increased orders from developed countries.
China's foreign trade grew 4.8 percent year-on-year to 9.89 trillion yuan ($1.44 trillion) in the first quarter of 2023, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.
Zhou, the analyst with China Everbright Bank, predicted that the country's exports will likely grow by 6 percent to 8 percent year-on-year during the first half of 2023, while the growth of imports will likely be about 0.3 percent to 0.7 percent.
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