Foreign trade to see steady growth
China's foreign trade will maintain steady growth in 2023, thanks to the improved trade structure and the country's proactive measures to tackle challenges such as geopolitical tensions and fluctuations in external demand, experts said.
The nation's foreign trade growth will play a key role in underpinning the global supply chain, they said.
Exports, one of the main contributors to China's GDP, are expected to expand in the second half of this year, as the country's factories have the ability to adapt swiftly to foreign customers' changing demands, they said.
Zhou Maohua, an analyst at China Everbright Bank, said that the new growth engines of China's foreign trade are likely to come from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and those related to the Belt and Road Initiative.
China's foreign trade grew by 5.8 percent year-on-year to 13.32 trillion yuan ($1.92 trillion) in the first four months of 2023, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
Exports rose 10.6 percent year-on-year to 7.67 trillion yuan, further easing market concerns over the export outlook of the world's second-largest economy for this year.
The strong performance of China's exports between January and April was driven by its fast-growing green and high-end manufacturing industries, including new energy vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and solar cells, as well as domestic companies' greater participation in trade shows both at home and abroad, Zhou said.
Zhou predicted that overseas demand will continue to rebound in the third and fourth quarters, as inflation in overseas countries gradually eases in the first half of this year.
Lyu Daliang, director-general of the GAC's statistics and analysis department, said the government's newly introduced policies to promote the stability, scale and quality of foreign trade will unleash the confidence and strength of China's export-oriented companies.
China, for instance, will host a large number of offline exhibitions and promote the resumption of international passenger flights. It will issue country-specific trade guidelines, help automakers establish and improve their international marketing and service systems, and improve foreign trade financing services for medium, small and micro-sized companies, according to information released by the Ministry of Commerce last month.
"These measures will effectively improve the quality of China's foreign trade throughout the year," Lyu said.
Wu Chaoming, deputy director of the Chasing International Economic Institute, is optimistic about robust foreign trade growth in 2023. He said China's commitment to speeding up the modernization of its industrial system would also motivate both exporters and foreign-funded companies to invest more in innovation and production capacity, despite the US' attempts to decouple in key supply chain areas.
Zhang Yansheng, chief researcher at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said domestic manufacturers should seize the opportunity to upgrade their manufacturing capacity, provide global customers with higher value-added products and secure more orders.
At the same time, diversification of international markets must be better leveraged to offset losses caused by shrinking demand from some European countries and the United States. Greater efforts should be made to extend trade cooperation with countries and regions involved in the BRI and ASEAN, Zhang said.
Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Co, based in Zhengzhou, Henan province, is already exporting buses outside developed economies. This year it will supply 800 new energy buses to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.
Li Haifeng, a senior executive of the company's overseas business unit, said the order, made up of 300 electric buses and 500 compressed natural gas ones, is the largest of its kind from Uzbekistan for China-made buses.
Li said the group's accumulative exports stood at around 86,000 buses at the end of February this year, with about 68,000 shipped to markets related to the BRI.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world's largest free trade pact, is scheduled to take full effect for all its 15 signatory states on June 2, the Ministry of Commerce said in April.
Complete implementation of the pact will help further boost exports and imports between China and other participating countries, said Zhang Jianping, deputy director of the academic committee of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
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