Review of China’s Foreign Trade in the First Half of 2016


According to China Customs statistics, China’s foreign trade value stood at RMB11.13 trillion in the first half of 2016, a drop of 3.3% year-on-year (similarly hereinafter). Exports amounted to RMB6.4 trillion, down by 2.1%. Imports decreased by 4.7% to RMB4.73 trillion. Trade surplus increased by 5.9% to RMB1.67 trillion.


In June, China’s foreign trade totaled RMB2.04 trillion, down by 0.3%. Exports rose by 1.3% to RMB1.17 trillion and imports declined by 2.3% to RMB863.3 billion. Monthly trade surplus amounted to RMB311.2 billion with an increase of 12.8%.


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


1. Foreign trade of the second quarter witnessed recovery with export growing and import declining more slowly. In the first half of 2016, the volume of foreign trade, exports and imports decreased compared to the previous year while showing signs of quarter-on-quarter recovery. In the first quarter, the volume of foreign trade, exports and imports decreased by 6.9%, 5.7% and 8.4% respectively. In the second quarter, the volume of foreign trade and exports increased by 0.1% and 1.2% respectively, registering positive growths. The imports decreased by 1.2%, and the size of decline narrowed by 7.2 percentage points than the previous quarter.


2. The proportion of general trade has increased. In the first half of 2016, China’s general trade amounted to RMB6.28 trillion, down by 1.2 percent, taking up 56.4 percent of China’s total foreign trade over the same period, 1.2 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 half of 2016, China’s exports to Pakistan, Russia, Bangladesh, India and Egypt increased by 22.5%, 16.6%, 9%, 7.8% and 4.7% respectively. Over the same period, exports to the EU increased by 1.3% while exports to the US and ASEAN dropped by 4.6% and 2.9% respectively, altogether accounting for 46.4% of China’s total export value.


4. The proportion of exports by private enterprises remained the highest. In the first half of this year, the imports and exports of private enterprises grew by 5.1 percent to RMB4.31 trillion, accounting for 38.7 percent of the total national figure. Exports by private enterprises increased by 3.6% to RMB2.99 trillion, accounting for 46.6 percent of the total export value, which exceeded that by foreign-invested enterprises and state-owned enterprises and thus remaining the highest. Imports grew by 8.7 percent, continuing the growth momentum of the fourth quarter of last year.


5. Electro-mechanical products and traditional labor-intensive products remained the major exported goods. In the first half of this year, exports of electro-mechanical products decreased by 2.5 percent to RMB3.66 trillion, taking up 57.2 percent of the total export value over the same period. Exports of medical equipment and instruments, storage batteries and solar batteries increased by 4.8 percent, 2.7 percent and 7.4 percent respectively. Over the same period, exports of traditional labor-intensive products increased by 0.4 percent to RMB1.34 trillion, accounting for 21 percent of the total export value. Growth was seen in the export of textiles, garment, 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. In the first half of 2016, the import of iron ore, crude oil, coal and copper hit 494 million tons, 187 million tons, 108 million tons and 2.74 million tons, which increased by 9.1 percent, 14.2 percent, 8.2 percent and 22 percent respectively. The import of refined oil and steel stood at 15.47 million tons and 6.46 million tons, which declined by 2% and 2.8% respectively. Over the same period, the import prices witnessed an overall decline of 8 percent, where the average import prices of iron ore, crude oil, refined oil, coal, copper and steel decreased by 15.7 percent, 31.9 percent, 21.4 percent, 20.1 percent, 15.7 percent and 9.2 percent respectively, with decline narrowing by varying degrees.


Moreover, in the first half of this year, China’s export prices witnessed a general decline of 3.2 percent. Thus, China’s net barter terms of trade index (NBTT index) in the first half of 2016 was calculated to be 105.2, which means a certain amount of China’s exported goods can be traded for 5.2 percent more worth of imported goods, indicating a continuous improvement in China’s NBTT.


Meanwhile, there remain obvious obstacles facing China’s foreign trade development. For example, China’s bilateral trade with its major trading partners such as the US and ASEAN have declined. Imports and exports by foreign-invested enterprises and state-owned enterprises reduced by 6.5 percent and 13 percent respectively. Imports and exports under processing trade dropped by 9.8 percent.


Faced with severe and complex foreign trade 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 deepening reform, implement the customs reform measures, facilitate foreign trade 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