SCIO briefing on China's import/export performance in 2019

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Zou Zhiwu, deputy head of the General Administration of Customs (GACC)

Huang Guohua, deputy head of GACC Department of Statistics


Shou Xiaoli, Press Bureau of the State Council Information Office


Jan. 14, 2020

Shou Xiaoli:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to this press conference. This is a routine conference on China's annual economic data. We are delighted to invite Mr. Zou Zhiwu, deputy head of the General Administration of Customs (GACC), to introduce China's import and export performance in 2019. He will also answer some of your questions. Also present is Mr. Huang Guohua, deputy head of GACC Department of Statistics. 

Now, I give the floor to Mr. Zou Zhiwu.

Zou Zhiwu:

Ladies and gentlemen, friends from the media, good morning. It's a great pleasure to meet you here. This is the first press conference of the year for the GACC. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your care, attention and support for our work in 2019. I also want to take this opportunity to wish you a happy Spring Festival. Now, I'll first make a brief introduction of China's import and export performance in 2019, and then answer some of your questions.

In 2019, the total volume of the import and export of goods reached 31.54 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 3.4%. Total export volume was 17.23 trillion yuan, a gain of 5%, while the import volume was 14.31 trillion yuan, up 1.6% from the year before, resulting in a trade surplus of 2.92 trillion a year-on-year gain of 25.4%.

Last year's foreign trade saw steady development with higher quality, showing six specific characteristics.

First, the scale of imports and exports rose quarter by quarter. Broken down into quarterly figures, the total volume was 7.03 trillion yuan, 7.68 trillion yuan, 8.26 trillion yuan and 8.59 trillion yuan respectively. The figure of December alone was 3.01 trillion yuan, a month-on-month increase of 12.7%. Specifically, the total volume of exports last month was 1.67 trillion yuan, up 9% from the month before, while imports rose 17.7% to 1.34 trillion yuan. In December, the volume of foreign trade, imports and exports all set historical highs. 

Second, the ranking of China's major trade partners changed, with ASEAN moving into second place, but the E.U. remained China's top trade partner, with the total volume of foreign trade increasing 8% to 4.86 trillion yuan. In regard to ASEAN, the total volume increased by 14.1% to 4.43 trillion yuan. The figure for the United States fell 10.7% to 3.73 trillion yuan. Japan was our fourth largest trade partner with the total volume up 0.4% to 2.17 trillion yuan. The total volume of foreign trade with countries along the Belt and Road was 9.27 trillion yuan collectively, increasing 10.8%, 7.4 percentage points higher than the total growth rate for the year.

Third, for the first time in history, private enterprises surpassed foreign-invested enterprises, and became the largest group involved in foreign trade. In 2019, the total trade of private enterprises reached 13.48 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 11.4%, accounting for 42.7% of China's total, 3.1 percentage points higher than that achieved in 2018. Specifically, the volume of exports was 8.9 trillion yuan, up 13%, while imports were valued at 4.58 trillion yuan, up 8.4%. In comparison, total imports and exports handled by foreign-invested enterprises was 12.57 trillion yuan, accounting for 39.9% of the national total, while the volume of State-owned enterprises was 5.32 trillion yuan, or 16.9% of the total. 

Fourth, the trade structure further improved, with general trade accounting for a larger share. In 2019, in the general trade sector, the total trade volume was 18.61 trillion yuan, a year-on-year gain of 5.6%, and accounting for 59% of China's total foreign trade, a figure 1.2 percentage points higher than 2018. Specifically, the volume of exports was 9.95 trillion yuan, up 7.8%, while imports reached 8.66 trillion yuan, up 3.1%. In comparison, in the processing trade, the trade performance was worse, declining 5.1% to 7.95 trillion yuan, accounting for 25.2% of the total.

Fifth, the majority of exported goods were mechanical and electrical products and labor-intensive products, with the former category accounting for nearly 60% of the total. Last year, the total volume of exported mechanical and electrical products was 10.06 trillion yuan, up 4.4%, accounting for 58.4% of the total export volume. Specifically, the volume of exported electrical and electronic products was 4.63 trillion yuan, a gain of 5.4%, while that of mechanical products was 2.87 trillion yuan, up 1.4%. In regard of seven labor-intensive products, including textiles and garments, the total export volume was 3.31 trillion yuan, up 6.1% yearly.

Sixth, the import volume of iron ore, crude oil, natural gas, soybeans and other commodities increased. In 2019, 1.07 billion tons of iron ore was imported, a gain of 0.5%; that of imported crude oil was 506 million tons, up 9.5%; that of imported natural gas reached 96.56 million tons, up 6.9%; and that of imported soybeans was 88.51 million tons, a gain of 0.5%. The import of meat products increased rapidly, such as pork (2.11 million tons, up 75%), while imported beef rose 59.7% to 1.66 million tons.

These are the major characteristics of China's foreign trade in 2019.

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