China’s foreign trade with the United States rose 2.3 percent and with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by 1.5 percent in the first four months of this year, thanks to the growing market demand in the world’s largest economy and diversified trading methods offered by the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
The total trade volume between China and the US amounted to 1.05 trillion yuan ($169.5 billion) from January to April, while bilateral trade between China and ASEAN reached 895.1 billion yuan, according to the General Administration of Customs on May 8.
Sang Baichuan, director of the Institute of International Business at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said the data suggest that after a slow start in the first quarter, market demand has improved because of stronger economic growth in the US, while demand growth in emerging markets has also held up.
Other factors included the strong export performance of China’s private enterprises and increased competitiveness of industries and products such as garments and electromechanical and automobile products.
“China should continue to expand its trading level with emerging markets along the “One Belt, One Road”, in particular with trade partners in Africa, ASEAN and Central Asian regions this year, as it aims to diversify and offset a slowdown in exports caused by more trade friction with the EU and the still troubled Japanese economy,” said Sang.
The Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives were proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, with the purpose of rejuvenating the two ancient trading routes and further opening up the markets in a mutually beneficial manner.
“Some emerging economies including Brazil, Nigeria, Indonesia and Mexico even maintained fast growth during the financial crisis because of their strong domestic demand,” said Yu Bin, director-general of the general office of the Development Research Center of the State Council.
China’s foreign trade declined by 10.9 percent in April from a year earlier, with exports dropping by 6.2 percent from a year earlier to 1.08 trillion yuan, while imports shrank by 16.1 percent to 873.9 billion yuan.
Bilateral trade with the European Union dropped 4.9 percent to 1.09 trillion yuan between January and April of this year, and the trade value with Japan declined 11 percent to 554.7 billion yuan.
“The overall decline in exports was largely due to weak external demand and the slow recovery in both economies,” said He Jingtong, a professor of international trade at Nankai University in Tianjin.
He said China must be prepared to face an increasing number of trade frictions in the rest of this year, as Brussels is planning harsher trade defenses against Chinese imports to protect the interest of its manufacturers and maintain the employment rate in various sectors.
Obstacles remain in achieving China’s trade growth target for this year, because exports at this moment are still constrained by instability in the recovery of global demand, an increase in trade frictions and the fact that China’s new competitive edge has not been fully established, according to He.