Review of China’s Foreign Trade in the First Three Quarters of 2016


According to China Customs Statistics, China’s foreign trade volume stood at RMB17.53 trillion, a drop of 1.9% year-on-year (similarly hereinafter). Exports decreased by 1.6% to RMB10.06 trillion and imports shrank by 2.3% to RMB7.47 trillion. Hence the trade surplus expanded by 0.6% to RMB2.59 trillion.


In September, China’s foreign trade totaled RMB2.17 trillion with a drop of 2.4%. Exports declined by 5.6% to RMB1.22 trillion. Imports increased by 2.2% to RMB944.79 billion. The trade surplus therefore narrowed to RMB278.35 billion, down by 25 %.


Main features of China’s foreign trade in the first three quarters of 2016 are as follows:


1. Foreign trade witnessed quarter-on-quarter recovery with both imports and exports growing in the third quarter. In the first three quarters, the volume of foreign trade, exports and imports still decreased compared to the previous year while showing tendency of quarter-on-quarter recovery. In the first quarter, the volume of foreign trade, exports and imports declined by 7.2%, 6.3% and 8.3% respectively. In the second quarter, the volume of foreign trade and imports decreased by 0.2% and 1.3% respectively while exports increased by 0.6%. In the third quarter, the amount of foreign trade, exports and imports rose by 1.1%, 0.4% and 2.1% respectively, showing preliminary sign of bottom stability.


2. Both the volume and the proportion of general trade have increased. In the first three quarters, China’s normal trade rose by 0.1% to RMB9.82 trillion, taking up 56% of China’s total foreign trade over the same period, 1.1 percentage points higher than the previous year, which reflected an improved structure of trade modes.


3. Exports to some countries along the “Belt and Road” have registered growth. In the first three quarters, China’s exports to Pakistan, Russia, Poland, Bangladesh and India increased by 14.9%, 14.1%, 11.7%, 9.6% and 7.8% respectively. Over the same period, China’s exports to the EU rose by 1.8% while exports to the US and ASEAN declined by 1.9% respectively, together accounting for 46.7% of China’s total export value.


4. The proportion of exports by private enterprises remained the highest. In the first three quarters of this year, the imports and exports of private enterprises grew by 4.1 percent to RMB6.76 trillion, accounting for 38.6 percent of the total national figure. Exports by private enterprises increased by 2.3% to RMB4.68 trillion, accounting for 46.5 percent of the total export value, which exceeded that by foreign-invested enterprises and state-owned enterprises and thus remaining the highest. Imports by private enterprises grew by 8.5 percent, continuing the growth momentum.


5. Electro-mechanical products and traditional labor-intensive products remained the major exported goods. During the first three quarters of this year, exports of electro-mechanical products decreased by 1.8 percent to RMB5.73 trillion, taking up 57 percent of the total export value over the same period. Exports of medical equipments and instruments, storage batteries and solar batteries increased by 6.3 percent, 5.2 percent and 2.7 percent respectively. Over the same period, exports of traditional labor-intensive products decreased by 0.6 percent to RMB2.15 trillion, accounting for 21.3 percent of the total export value. Growth was seen in the export of textiles, toys and plastic products, with some products still having traditional competitive edges.


6. The import volume of major bulk commodities such as iron ore, crude oil and copper maintained growth, while the prices of major import commodities remained low with a narrowed decline size compared with that in the first half of 2016. In the first three quarters of 2016, the import of iron ore, crude oil, coal and copper hit 763 million tons, 284 million tons, 180 million tons and 379 million tons, which increased by 9.1 percent, 14 percent, 15.2 percent and 11.8 percent respectively. The import of refined oil stood at 21.50 million tons, declining by 7.1 percent while the import of steel stood at 9.83 million tons, increasing by 1 percent. Over the same period, the import prices witnessed an overall decline of 5.3 percent, where the average import prices of iron ore, crude oil, refined oil, coal, copper and steel decreased by 8.6 percent, 25.9 percent, 16.9 percent, 14.8 percent, 11.9 percent and 7.4 percent respectively, with decline narrowing by varying degrees compared with that in the first half of the year.


Moreover, in the first three quarters of this year, China’s export prices witnessed a general decline of 2.7 percent. Thus, China’s net barter terms of trade index (NBTT index) in the first three quarters of 2016 was calculated to be 102.8, which means a certain amount of China’s exported goods can be traded for 2.8 percent more worth of imported goods, indicating a continuous improvement in China’s NBTT.


7. China’s Export Leading Index kept increasing this September. From this July, China’s Export Leading Index has kept rising after a fall for three consecutive months to be 35.8 in September, which showed that the export pressure is hopefully to be less in the fourth quarter. Data from an online survey showed China’s Export Managers’ Index was 39.9, increasing by 1.2 while the New Export Order Index was 40.3, increasing by 1.9 and the Manager Confidence Index was 45.5, increasing by 1.


Meanwhile, there remain obvious obstacles facing China’s foreign trade development. For example, China’s bilateral trade with the US and ASEAN as its major trading partners have declined by 3.3 percent and 0.8 percent respectively. Imports and exports by foreign-invested enterprises and state-owned enterprises reduced by 4.1 percent and 9.8 percent respectively. Imports and exports under processing trade dropped by 7 percent.


Faced with severe and complex international environment, China Customs will implement the policies and measures for a steady growth in foreign trade, focus on the establishment of a new open economic system and comprehensively deepen reform, facilitate the improvement of the foreign trade structure in a steady and good manner, and better serve the economic and social development of the nation.


The English version is only for reference. In the event of any discrepancy between the Chinese and English versions, the Chinese version shall prevail.



Recently Read:


General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China

Address: No.6. Jianguomennei Avenue, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China        Postcode: 100730