SCIO briefing on imports and exports of 2015

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Huang Songping, spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs

Hu Kaihong, vice director-general of the Press Bureau, State Council Information Office

Jan.13, 2016

Hu Kaihong:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to today's press conference. I'm joined by Huang Songping, spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs, who will brief you on China's imports and exports in 2015 and answer questions. Now, I give the floor to Mr. Huang.

Huang Songping:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming to this press conference. I will brief you on China's imports and exports in 2015 and answer your questions.

In 2015, the global economy underwent an anemic recovery, and is expected to face tremendous headwinds in the coming years. As the domestic economy suffers from much downward pressure, China's foreign trade will confront a "New Normal.". China's trade in goods registered 24.59 trillion yuan (almost US$ 3.74 trillion), a decline of 7% over the previous year. Specifically, total exports stood at 14.14 trillion yuan (almost US$ 2.15 trillion) and imports reached 10.45 trillion yuan (almost US$ 1.59 trillion), which involved a decline of 1.8% and 13.2% respectively; trade surplus expanded 56.7% to reach 3.69 trillion yuan (almost US$ 560 billion).

Faced with this complex and severe situation, the country's foreign trade still witnessed some positive changes. They are as follows:

First, the mode of foreign trade has become more reasonable. Thanks to measures such as "growth stabilization and structural readjustment" introduced by the State Council, China's general trade volume stood at 13.29 trillion yuan (almost US$ 2.02 trillion), a fall of 6.5%. This accounted for 54% of the overall trade volume, and was 0.3 percentage points higher than the previous year; exports in general trade rose 2.2%.

Huang Songping:

Second, China is involved with a wider group of trade partners. In 2015, European Union, the United States and ASEAN were China's top three trade partners, with bilateral trade reaching 3.51 trillion (US$ 533.52 billion) yuan, 3.47 trillion yuan (US$ 527.44 billion) and 2.93 trillion yuan (US$ 445.36 billion) respectively. In the same period, China maintained good momentum in trade with ASEAN, India and other emerging markets. Specifically, bilateral trade with the ASEAN countries dropped 0.6%, while that with India rose 2.5%; both outperformed the overall trade situation.

Third, the private sector showed dynamic momentum in foreign trade. In 2015, private enterprises registered overall trade of 9.1 trillion yuan (US$ 1.38 trillion) , a slight decrease of 0.2%. However, they accounted for 37% of overall trade, up 2.5 percentage points proportionately; moreover, exports sawa growth of 3.1%.

Fourth, export structure continued to optimize. In 2015, exports of mechanical and electrical products totaled 8.15 trillion yuan (US$ 1.24 trillion), up 1.2%, accounting for 57.7% of overall exports, a rise of 1.7 percentage points proportionately. Export of labor intensive products including textiles, clothing, bags, footwear, toys, furniture and plastic products recorded a total value of 2.93 trillion yuan (US$ 0.45 trillion), down 1.7%, accounting for 20.7% of the total; specifically, export of toys, furniture, bags and plastic products continued to grow.

Huang Songping:

Fifth, import of some bulk commodity goods kept growing and the terms of trade continued to improve. In 2015, the import volume of some bulk commodity goods kept growing. Specifically, import of iron ore and crude oil stood at 953 million tons and 334 million tons, up 2.2% and 8.8% respectively. In the same period, the overall price of import commodities dropped 11.6%, with iron ore, crude oil, refined oil products, soybeans, coal and copper being among the biggest drags.

China's overall price of exports dropped 1%, a much smaller decline compared with that of imports. In this regard, China's terms of trade index was 112.1 Index Points in 2015, which meant the country could buy 12.1 percent more imports for any given level of exports, an improved and favorable condition in foreign trade.

At the same time, we cannot deny the fact that China's foreign trade still faces many difficulties. For example, in 2015, bilateral trade with the European Union and Japan declined 7.2% and 9.9% respectively; imports and exports of foreign-invested enterprises and State-owned enterprises dropped 6.5% and 12.1%; processing trade fell 10.6%. In December last year, China's Export Leading Indicator (ELI) stood at 31.2, a drop of 0.8 from the previous month, which indicates much export pressure in the first quarter this year.

Huang Songping:

Faced with complex and severe situation in foreign trade, the General Administration of Customs will implement the overall arrangements made by the CPC Central Committee, the State Council, and the Central Economic Work Conference in deepening reform, creating a business-friendly environment, and promoting steady growth and overall transformation and upgrading of foreign trade.

Now I am ready to take your questions.

Hu Kaihong:

Thank you, Mr. Huang. Now the floor is open. Please identify the media outlet you are representing when raising your questions.


China's import and export have both decreased in 2015 according to the statistics you reported. What's your comment on this? This phenomenon happened only in 2009 when the global financial crisis occurred. Why did it happen again in 2015?

Huang Songping:

In recent years, the Chinese economy has been deeply integrated with the global economy. The development of Chinese foreign trade has entered into a "new normal" stage while the growth of the world economy has slowed down. China's tangible goods trade faced severe difficulties at home and abroad during 2015 in the face of a new global financial crisis. Although the import and export have both decreased in 2015, our export is obviously better than other major economies as a result of our efforts. The market share of Chinese exports has improved compared to last year. The sharp decrease of import is mainly because that commodity prices dropped markedly on the global market. This is our overall assessment of import and export performance in China's tangible goods trade throughout 2015.

According to our analysis, the following reasons lead to the decrease in the import and export in 2015. The main reason for the decrease of export is the weak demand in the overseas market. The impetus of the growth of world economy has been damaged by the global financial crisis since 2008. The overall recovery of the world economy is still gaining traction. It has led global trade into a deep adjustment stage and restrained the increase of our exports. The export volume of our mechanical and electrical products increased by only 1.2% in 2015, down 1.4 percentage points from a year earlier. The export volume of traditional labor-intensive products rarely drops by 1.7%.

Huang Songping:

Our assessment has been proved by the statistics of global exports released by the World Trade Organization. Global exports witnessed a sharp drop in 2015. According to the statistics from the WTO, the global exports based in USD dropped by more than 11% in the first 10 months of 2015. This is the first decrease since 2009 when the global financial crisis happened. As I mentioned before, Chinese exports are obviously doing better than those of the other major economies in 2015. Based in USD, our exports only decreased by 2.5% in the first 10 months, compared with the 6.5% drop for the USA, a 13.2 % drop for European Union and 9.5% drop for Japan.

When it comes to imports, I would like to mention two statistics. The first statistic is the crude oil price in the international market. The Crude Oil futures price in NYMEX was about 50 USD a barrel at the beginning of 2015. The price surged to 60 USD per barrel during the middle of 2015. But it dropped below 40 USD per barrel by the end of 2015, which is a 40% drop compared to the highest point in 2015. And the price has dropped to 30 USD per barrel in the beginning of 2016. In the past year, the average price of our imported crude oil dropped from 2,856 yuan per ton in the beginning of 2015 to 2,020 yuan per ton in December of 2015, which is a 29.3% drop. The average price of imported crude oil in 2015 dropped by 45.3% compared to last year. The second statistic is the CRB price index from the Commodity Research Bureau of the USA. In 2015, the CRB Index dropped to the same level as the 2008 global financial crisis. Since May 2014, the CRB Index has dropped sharply from the level of 500 points. It is in a down trend despite a slight rebound in the first half of 2015. It dropped to 380 points by the end of 2015, a 24% drop compared to the highest point in 2014. The CRB Index continued to slide to 370 points in January of 2016, which is close to the level of 300 points witnessed during the global financial crisis from the end of 2008 to the beginning of 2009. In 2015, the average prices of imported iron ore, coal, refined oil and copper dropped by 39%, 21.8%, 38.3% and 17.1% respectively when compared to last year.

Huang Songping:

The remarkable drop of commodity prices on the global market also proves the slow recovery of the world economy and the sluggish global demand. With China's economic development adjusting to the new normal, the domestic economy faces great downward pressure and the growth of some imported commodities is slowing down. The import volume of crude oil increased by 8.8% and that of iron ore increased by 2.2% in 2015. However, the import volumes of coal, copper and steel dropped by 29.9%, 0.3% and 11.4% respectively when compared to last year. Therefore, the decrease of China's imports in 2015 is mainly due to the falling of commodity prices on the global market and the slowdown of commodity imports.

Phoenix Satellite Television:

In recent days, the momentum has been clear for a weaker yuan except for two days. Considering the RMB exchange rate trend, how do you view its influence on imports and exports during 2016?

Huang Songping:

In this recent period of time, the exchange rate has fluctuated relatively quickly. The fluctuation, to a certain extent, will affect China's imports and exports. This year, various elements will influence the imports and exports of foreign trade, so the impact of the exchange rate will depend on specific changes. We will continue to keep a close eye on the changes of exchange rate and trade.

Nigerian Television Authority (NTA):

Regarding the China-Africa trade and China-Nigeria trade, is the trade between China and Nigeria balanced? If not, which side has benefited more? How could the trade between China and Nigeria be more balanced?

Huang Songping:

In 2015, the bilateral import and export trade between China and Africa reached 1.11 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 18.3 percent, among which exports accounted for 670 billion yuan with an increase of 3.6 percent and imports for 440 billion yuan with a decrease of 38.4 percent. China's import and export trade with Nigeria reached 92.7 billion yuan, a year-on-year decrease of 16.3 percent, among which exports accounted for 85 billion yuan with a decrease of 10.1 percent and imports for 7.7 billion yuan with a decrease of 52.8 percent.

In 2015, Nigeria was China's third largest trade partner and the second largest export market in Africa. China's exports to Nigeria were mainly mechanical and electrical products as well as textiles, while imports from Nigeria were mainly logs and crude oil.

China has adhered to its opening-up and development policy. China's economic and trade cooperation with African countries, including Nigeria, will certainly be mutually beneficial and win-win. Last December, President Xi Jinping met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. I believe that in the future, as long as both sides make joint efforts, give full play to the two major advantages of traditional friendship and complimentary economic cooperation, boost political mutual trust, engage in close and friendly exchanges and deepen cooperation in various fields, we will surely be able to promote the comprehensive and rapid development of friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries. Thank you.

Information Telegraphic Agency of Russia-TASS Reporter:

Can you give us a detailed introduction about China-Russian trade in 2015? And will bilateral trade rebound this year after a drop in 2015? Thank you.

Huang Songping:

The China-Russian trade volume reached 422.7 billion yuan in 2015, falling by 27.8 percent. China's exports to Russia are worth 216.2 billion yuan, a 34.4 percent drop year on year. The imports from Russia are worth 206.4 billion yuan, down by 19.1 percent. China's trade surplus is 9.7 billion yuan, which has narrowed by 86.9 percent.

Last year was a tough year for international trade. We think the grim situation will still be present this year. Whether the downward trend can be reversed or not depends on the domestic situations of the two economies and the global environment. Thank you!

Xinhua News Agency:

As you mentioned, though both China's import and export trade declined last year, the quality and efficiency of foreign trade have improved to some extent. In which area is the improvement best reflected? How do you anticipate China's import and export situation this year? Will it be as grave as last year? Thank you.

Huang Songping:

I would like to answer your second question first. In 2016, the world economy presented low growth and low external demand. There will be no obvious change in this situation. China's foreign trade development still faces many difficulties. However, I believe that China's foreign trade can achieve higher-quality and more-efficient development as long as we make plans according to the unified decisions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, grasp the right direction, go ahead steadily, accelerate a new pattern of opening-up foreign trade and cultivate new international competitive advantages. At the same time, we need to continue to comprehensively deepen reform and advance China's opening-up to the outside world, put every foreign trade policy and measure in place and work to promote foreign trade to achieve tangible results.

We made quite a bit of progress in terms of quality and efficiency last year. Thanks to the hard work of all parties involved, the structures of China's foreign trade has been improved and new progress has been made in the optimization and upgrading of structures despite the many difficulties. The achievements were mainly reflected in the following aspects.

First, China is still the world's largest trade country. China is the world's biggest trader and exporter in goods. Considering the trade situation in major world economies, China will still be able to keep this position in 2015, with the export market share to reach 13 percent, enjoying continuous growth compared with the previous year.

Second, new trade models have injected new vitalities into foreign trade. Since 2015, China's emerging trade models have enjoyed vigorous growth thanks to a series of policies the central government has launched to promote the fast development of cross-border e-commerce. Here are some examples. By the end of November 2015, 1 billion parcels valued at more than 15.5 billion yuan (US$2.36 billion) have been cleared in Shanghai, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Zhengzhou, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, where cross-border e-commerce retail import business are carried out on a trial basis.

Third, new progress has been made in quality imports and exports. In 2015, there was a continuous optimization of the development trend in trade forms, main trade participants, commodity structures, market diversification, trade conditions as well as their contributions to economic and social development. Here are some examples. The proportion of general trade export and that of private enterprises' import and export increased to some extent. The export of mobile phones increased by 8.8 percent, the export of medical instruments increased by 7.2 percent, and the proportion of export to emerging markets including the ASEAN, India, Latin America and Africa increased by 1.1 percentage points. As for imports, we have paid more attention to advanced technology, key equipment as well as key spare parts and accessories. In 2015, China's high-tech products' import rose by 0.7 percent, accounting for 32.6 percent of total value of imports, up 4.5 percentage points.

For this year's anticipation, we have noticed that the media has paid close attention to this year's foreign trade growth target. As for the specific situation, I have no concise information yet. You may consult the relevant departments. Thank you.

My question is for Mr. Huang. We noticed that as China's trade volume with Europe and Japan declined greatly, China's trade with newly rising markets such as ASEAN countries and India obviously increased. How do you interpret the changes? At the same time, as China faces a difficult situation in foreign trade this year, what measures can Customs adopt to boost the business environment and make it more convenient? Thanks!

Huang Songping:

We just talked about this. For emerging markets, such as ASEAN, we saw a slight decline in trade, but the situation was relatively good. For India, our trade increased. For those newly rising markets, their economic situation is currently good and their political environment is stable, which prompted China to develop trade with them. The new markets also gradually become a significant target for China's exports.

This year, Customs has issued various policies and measures to support foreign trade. For example, in regard to clearance reform, it has introduced clearance integration. To lower enterprise costs and make clearance more convenient, we also have some new policies to improve the efficiency of clearance and lower enterprise export costs. Furthermore, we have some measures to streamline administration and delegate power to lower levels, including implementing the cancellation of the custom's administrative review and approval and delegating work to the lower levels, and implementing the new requirements from the State Council about regulating examination and approval procedures, building a new mechanism for standardized examination and approval management, thoroughly cleaning upproceedings involving intermediary services and optimizing internal merger proceedings, as well as voluntarily increasing the pressure on ourselves. Besides, some successful experience from the Shanghai Free Trade Zone will also be promoted actively. These measures will have very good effect in boosting foreign trade development. Thanks.

Nigerian Television Authority (NTA):

Would you project how China-Africa trade will change this year, including imports and exports? What would be the reasons behind these changes?

Huang Songping:

As I mentioned just now, the situation of international trade will remain grave this year. I think China-Africa trade is unlikely to be an exception. As to how China-Africa trade will change, whether it will develop or worsen, we will have to wait sometime before we have the answer. But we will pay close attention to its development, and actively streamline and facilitate the customs procedures for China-Africa trade. We will also support Chinese companies to seek business opportunities in Africa and build good trade ties with Africa. Thank you.

Hu Kaihong:

This is the end of today's press conference. Thank you, Mr. Huang, and thank you all!

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