Mar 31

China Watch Blog is considering a number of policies to boost the country’s imports and improve its trade balance, which include adjustments to import tariffs and measures to facilitate fund-raising and customs clearance for import enterprises.

According to a State Council, or cabinet, executive meeting presided by Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday, China will cut import duties on some energy and raw material products, consumer products as well as some high-tech goods.

It said the country will put more attention on increasing imports, which will help improve people’s living standards and ease frictions with the country’s trade partners.

The country will also encourage commercial banks to support the imports of high-tech technologies, equipment, key parts as well as energy and raw material products, it said.

Other policies will include measures to expand fund-raising channels of import firms, improve the cross-border trade settlement in the yuan, cut import costs and remove irregular restrictions.

China is now the world’s largest exporter and the second-largest importer. The growth of its imports has recently outpaced exports as the country tries to increase domestic demand.

The countries’ exports rose 18.4 percent from a year earlier to $114.47 billion in February, while imports were up 39.6 percent, the highest growth in 13 months, to $145.96 billion, according to customs data.

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Mar 16

China Watch Blog has learnt that the volume of Hong Kong’s re-exports of goods in January 2012 decreased by 13.6% over January 2011, while that of domestic exports dropped sharply, by 47.9%. Taken together, the volume of total exports of goods decreased by 14.3%. Concurrently, the volume of imports of goods fell by 14.9%.

Kwai Tsing container terminals

According to the external merchandise trade statistics in value terms for January 2012 released by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD), comparing the three months ending January 2012 with the three months ending January 2011, the volume of Hong Kong’s re-exports of goods decreased by 4.5%, while that of domestic exports dropped sharply, by 41.1%. Taken together, the volume of total exports of goods decreased by 5.3%. Concurrently, the volume of imports of goods decreased by 3.2%.

Comparing the three-month period ending January 2012 with the preceding three months on a seasonally adjusted basis, the volume of total exports of goods increased by 1.0%. Within this total, the volume of re-exports increased by 1.1%, whereas that of domestic exports decreased by 9.5%. On the other hand, the volume of imports of goods decreased slightly, by 0.3%.

Changes in volume of external merchandise trade are derived from changes in external merchandise trade value with the effect of price changes discounted.

Comparing January 2012 with January 2011, the prices of re-exports of goods increased by 7.3%, while those of domestic exports increased by 3.3%. Taken together, the prices of total exports of goods increased by 7.2%. Concurrently, the prices of imports of goods increased by 6.6%.

Price changes in external merchandise trade are reflected by changes in unit value indices of external merchandise trade which are compiled based on average unit values or, for certain commodities, specific price data.

The terms of trade index is derived from the ratio of price index of total exports of goods to that of imports of goods. Compared with the same period in 2011, the index increased by 0.5% in January 2012.

Changes in the unit value and volume of total exports of goods by main destination are shown in Table 1.

Comparing January 2012 with January 2011, double-digit decreases were recorded for the total export volume to Germany (-16.4%), the mainland of China (the Mainland) (-16.4%), the USA (-13.9%), Japan (-11.7%) and Korea (-10.0%).

Over the same period of comparison, the total export prices to all main destinations increased: the USA (+9.8%), Japan (+8.4%), Germany (+7.3%), the Mainland (+7.1%) and Korea (+2.0%).

Changes in the unit value and volume of imports of goods by main supplier are shown in Table 2.

Comparing January 2012 with January 2011, double-digit decreases were recorded for the import volume from Taiwan (-23.7%), Japan (-21.1%), Singapore (-17.7%), the USA (-17.5%) and the Mainland (-13.6%).

Over the same period of comparison, the import prices from all main suppliers increased: Singapore (+9.9%), the Mainland (+7.1%), the USA (+6.2%), Japan (+6.0%) and Taiwan (+3.2%).

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Feb 28

China Watch Blog has learnt that the export growth of China’s electronic products slowed markedly last year to 11.9 percent, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced on Monday.

The total export value last year reached 661.2 billion U.S. dollars, up 11.9 percent year-on-year. However, the growth rate was 17.4 percentage points lower than that of the previous year, the MIIT data showed.

The export value of electronic products accounted for nearly 35 percent of the nation’s total export value in 2011, according to the data. Computers and cell phones were the top two categories of exported electronic products.

In 2011, computer and mobile phone exports increased by 11.1 percent and 34.3 percent, respectively, to 105.88 billion U.S. dollars and 62.76 billion U.S. dollars, the data showed.

Meanwhile, the MIIT also announced that the country’s imports of electronic devices hit a new high of 468 billion U.S. dollars last year, up 11 percent year-on-year. However, the growth rate saw a sharp decrease of 23 percentage points in comparison with that of 2010.

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Feb 26

China Watch Blog has learnt that Hong Kong’s exports and imports shrank sharply in value in January, the Census & Statistics Department said.

Hong Kong port

The value of total exports of goods decreased 8.6% over a year earlier to $259.3 billion, after a year-on-year increase of 7.4% in December. Within this total, the value of re-exports dropped 7.9% to $255.6 billion, while the value of domestic exports decreased 39.7% to $3.7 billion.

Exports to Asia dropped 11.8%, with substantial decreases recorded in major markets, such as Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand.

Decreases were also recorded in other regions, particularly Germany and the US.

The department warned Hong Kong’s export outlook remains bleak in the near future, as the eurozone crisis continues to plague the global economic outlook and weigh on Asia’s production activities.

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Feb 14

China Watch Blog has learnt that China’s imports in January fell the most since the depths of the global financial crisis, raising concerns that demand may be weaker than previously thought even allowing for Lunar New Year factory shutdowns.

Imports sank 15.3 percent in January versus January 2011 — the lowest since August 2009 — while exports fell 0.5 percent over the same period, the worst showing since November 2009, customs data showed Friday.

While raising worries about the resilience of domestic demand, which has shielded the world’s second-largest economy from slackening exports, it also raises alarm bells about China’s ability to support a frail global economy.

“A fall of over 15 percent in January cannot be entirely explained by the Lunar calendar, and adds weight to the view that economic output is slower than headline indicators might suggest,” said Ren Xianfeng, an economist at IHS Global in Beijing.

Still, Lunar New Year distortions will make policymakers wary of any hasty reaction. Analysts expect them to assess January and February data combined before deciding whether the current policy of gentle easing should be intensified.

The big imports drop combined with a smaller exports drop left China with a trade surplus of US$27.3 billion in January, its biggest in six months and confounding expectations of a further narrowing.

Exports to the European Union, China’s top export market, fell 3.2 percent in January from a year earlier, the first decline since February last year, the data shows.

Exports to the United States rose 5.5 percent in January from a year earlier, slowing from December’s 11.9 percent rise and marking the weakest pace since February last year.

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Dec 05

China Watch Blog has learnt that Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan on Sunday stressed the importance of China stabilizing its exports and increasing imports despite the grim and complicated global economic outlook sapping demand.

Faced with such a troubled external environment, China should handle its own affairs well, Wang was quoted as saying in a China Daily report during a meeting with government officials from six coastal provinces.

Transforming trade development patterns based on the principle of promoting balanced trade through stabilizing growth is the fundamental means to ride out the current difficulties, he said.

He pledged to keep foreign trade policy stable and consistent, make more efforts to support small businesses, and urged expansion in emerging markets.

During his trip to a number of state-owned machinery producers, Wang said the enterprises should accelerate technological innovation and brand-building to snatch bigger overseas market share.

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Oct 06

China Watch Blog has picked up news that China is studying and launching concrete measures related to tax and procedures to increase imports in a move to enhance the country’s industrial competitiveness and balance of trade.

A China Daily report quoted said Zhong Shan, vice-minister of commerce as saying that while the global debt crisis is hurting demand for Chinese goods and exports, “expanding imports will strengthen the competitiveness of the local industries, if appropriate moves are taken.”

Delivering a keynote speech at the China Import Forum 2011 in Shanghai, Zhong said the country is stepping up efforts to research and draft six relevant measures, including “launching preferential tax and finance policies, simplifying and reducing relevant procedures, maturing domestic circulating channels and promoting (trade) fairs”.

Meanwhile, the nation is also committed to optimizing the import structure, and importing more advanced technology, equipment and parts, resource-related and consumer goods in the next five years.

On Thursday, the ministry also announced the establishment of the Shanghai Waigaoqiao tariff-free zone – China’s largest zone of its kind in terms of imports – as a trial area for the promotion of regional imports and trade.

China’s year-on-year import growth during the first eight months has been increasing, resulting in a figure of 30.2 percent in August. Between January and August, imports grew by 27.5 percent, compared with 23.6 percent for exports.

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Jul 12

China Watch Blog has learnt that the pace of China’s June import growth fell to its lowest level in 20 months as tightening monetary policies kicked in, resulting in the biggest monthly trade surplus this year.

Waigaoqiao Port

China Daily reported, citing economists that the official statistics show import growth is expected to slow in the coming months, thanks to the broad impact of the tightening measures, before picking up in the last quarter.

According to the General Administration of Customs (GAC), imports rose 19.3 percent, from a year earlier, to $139.7 billion, the weakest since November 2009.

Exports rose 17.9 percent and despite this being the smallest increase since last December they reached a record high of $161.9 billion.

The decline in import growth has led to a widening trade surplus, $22.3 billion in June compared to $13.1 billion in May. But in the first six months the trade surplus dropped 18 percent, year-on-year, to $44.9 billion.

“Import growth was weaker than expected, as imports for China’s processing trade weakened and de-stocking in heavy industry continued,” Wang Tao, head of China Economic Research at UBS Securities, said.

“Recent commodity price drops, including crude oil, also helped lower the import bill,” she added.

June’s net imports of crude oil fell 12 percent from May to 19.43 million metric tons, the lowest since October, amid refinery maintenance and slowing energy demand, according to the GAC figures.

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Jul 02

China Watch Blog has learnt that tax on imported luxury goods should not be canceled or reduced, but it should be increased instead, an official with China’s Ministry of Finance said.

The comments by Liu Shangxi, a senior researcher with the ministry reported by Shanghai Daily came just days after Yao Jian, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said key ministries were about to submit a proposal to the State Council asking for the import duty on luxury goods to be cut.

But in an article on the finance ministry’s website, Liu cited the need to maintain social equality and protect domestic companies.

“The taxes are imposed on the rich people, and should rather be raised than reduced,” Liu said. “Besides, stronger reliance on imported goods may damp competitiveness of domestic companies.”

The article also cited Mao Jie, of the University of International Business and Economics, and Li Bengui, a researcher with China’s top tax bureau, as proposing that the country should spend more effort in building strong domestic brands than in reducing import duty.

However, on four occasions over the past three months, officials with the Ministry of Commerce, including Minister Chen Demin and Vice Minister Jiang Zengwei, have expressed a willingness to reduce taxes on high-quality imported goods.

China is the world’s second largest market for luxury products after Japan.

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May 12

China Watch Blog has learnt that the volume of Hong Kong’s goods re-exports grew 14.1% in March, year on year, while that of domestic exports fell 3.8%. Taken together, the volume of total exports rose 13.7%. Concurrently, the volume of imports increased 11%.

The Census & Statistics Department said, taken together, the volume of total exports grew 17.7%, and the volume of imports rose 12.9% in the first quarter. The volume of Hong Kong’s goods re-exports grew 18.2% while that of domestic exports fell 4.1%.

Comparing the first quarter of 2011 with the fourth quarter of 2010 on a seasonally adjusted basis, the volume of total exports rose 16.3%. Within this total, the volume of re-exports grew 16.6%, while that of domestic exports rose 0.4% and the volume of imports of goods rose 12.1%.

In March, the prices of re-exports of goods grew 8.3%, while those of domestic exports increased 6.8%, year on year. Taken together, the prices of total exports of goods increased 8.3% and the prices of imports of goods grew 9.4%.

Total export volume to Taiwan rose sharply by 34.6% in March, year on year, with the export volume to Germany, the Mainland, the US and Japan increasing 13.3%, 12.3%, 7% and 4.8%. Total export prices to all main destinations including the US , Taiwan, the Mainland, Germany and Japan also recorded increases of 8.9%, 8.6%, 8.1%, 7.5% and 7.4%.

Double-digit increases were recorded for the import volume from Singapore (20.6%), the Mainland (12.8%), the US (12.8%) and Taiwan (10.8%), while the import volume from Japan decreased 5.7%. The import prices from all main suppliers, including Singapore, Japan, the Mainland, the US and Taiwan also increased 13.1%, 11.4%, 9.1%, 6.5% and 3.7%.

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