May 08

China Watch Blog has learnt that China’s inflation may weaken in April, allowing more room for policy stimulus, but trade is likely to remain dim.

The Consumer Price Index, a main gauge of inflation, may rise 3.4 percent in April, Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at the Industrial Bank, said.

The Bank of Communications economist Tang Jianwei predicted a 3.3 percent increase, the Shanghai Daily reported.

The inflation rebounded more than expected to 3.6 percent in March from the 20-month low of 3.2 percent in February.

“Inflationary pressure is receding with lower global oil prices and cheaper pork,” Lu said. “This can ease worries of policymakers and allow a reserve requirement ratio cut possibly this month.”

The world’s second-largest economy still needs at least one reserve requirement ratio cut to boost liquidity and sustain growth, which showed some encouraging signs this month, analysts said.

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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 11

China Watch Blog has learnt that China’s imports and exports fell 7.8 percent year-on-year to reach $272.6 billion in January this year, due to the economic downturn and Spring Festival holiday. The festival results in a distortion of the trade figure as most factories in China shut down operations for a week or two, and in some other cases, for even longer periods.

According to a Global Times report citing data from the General Administration of Customs of China, imports fell 15.3 percent year-on-year to $122.66 billion in January and exports slumped 0.5 percent to $149.94 billion. The trade volume hit the lowest point since March last year.

Analysts said the data this January is lower than expectation, but a single month of data cannot reflect the real economic situation.

“The European debt crisis and the US’s economic downturn are both the main events which lead to the export slump in January. In addition, the effect of the Spring Festival and continual property restriction policies cause domestic demand to decrease,” Li Jian, a research fellow at the Research Institute under the Ministry of Commerce (MOC), told the Global Times Friday.

It’s more reasonable to assess January and February data combined to judge whether the current economic policies need to be adjusted or not, Li noted.

Customs figures showed Chinese trade with European, US, Japanese and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) markets all decreased in different degrees in January. However, trade with emerging economies such as Brazil and Russia still kept growing.

“Trade with European, American and Japanese markets decreased from last year due to the economic downturn, and people from ASEAN countries also take Spring Festival holidays,” He Weiwen, co-director of China-US/EU Studies at the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times Friday.

The decline in trade left China with a trade surplus of $27.3 billion in January, the highest in six months. The Chinese currency strengthened by 72 basis points to 6.2937 against the US dollar on Friday, a new record high, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trading System.

“When the trade surplus rises, people expect the yuan to increase in value, but this pressure will slow gradually,” Li said.

Chen Deming, China’s minister of commerce said Thursday that January’s data would not look pretty, and a stable yuan was needed to help Chinese exporters, Shanghai Securities News reported Friday.

Due to the global economic downturn, Chinese trade growth will continue to be sluggish in the short term, Li added.

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Jan 05

China Watch Blog has learnt that China’s trade surplus was around US$160 billion, a modest decline from US$183.1 billion last year, Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming was quoted as saying in a SCMP report.

China recorded a surplus of about US$21.6 billion in December, a four-month high and a sharp rise from November’s US$14.5 billion.

Chen said in a statement on the commerce ministry’s website that the trade surplus share of China’s gross domestic product (GDP) dropped to about 2 per cent this year from 3.1 per cent last year.

The United States has urged Beijing to keep China’s trade surplus share of GDP below 4 per cent, although that proposal has been rejected by the Chinese government.

“China has achieved balanced and stable development of foreign trade this year,” Chen said.

He added that China’s exports and imports totalled US$3.6 trillion last year, an increase of 20 per cent from a year ago. But Chen did not give a breakdown of exports and imports.

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Dec 18

China Watch Blog has learnt that a slowdown in the country’s export growth could continue at least into the first quarter of next year with a “more severe” outlook, the Ministry of Commerce said.

But the government has confidence in keeping stable growth in foreign trade, said ministry spokesman Shen Danyang at a monthly news briefing.

With demand weakening from the European Union, China’s largest trade partner, overseas sales have been on the decline. In November, the nation’s exports increased by 13.8 percent from a year earlier, the smallest gain since 2009, according to the General Administration of Customs.

And things will probably get worse. “China may see negative export growth next year in some months although shipments for the year could rise 10 percent if there’s no world recession,” said Yu Bin, director of macroeconomic research at the State Council’s Development Research Center.

“It’s too early to predict the prospects of export for the whole year of 2012, but one thing is for sure, the first quarter will be very severe for China’s exports,” said Shen.

Besides shrinking worldwide demand, trade protectionist measures of various types are challenging Chinese exporters. On Thursday, the European Union imposed five-year tariffs as high as 71.9 percent on imports of steel pipes from China.

According to Shen, new measures to help China maintain export growth will be released during the annual China commerce work conference, to be held in early January.

The three-day Central Economic Work Conference, which closed on Wednesday, pointed out China will try to stabilize growth for exports next year, by stabilizing its foreign trade policies and promoting industrial transformation.

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Oct 05

China Watch Blog has learnt that the average price of China’s exports is rising as export quantity growth slows, but it comes as no surprise to most people as the US demand has slowed and in Europe the Eurozone crisis is threatening most countries as confidence in global financial systems are faltering.

Shanghai's Yangshan deepwater port

China’s foreign trade gains more momentum with countries such as India, ASEAN members, Russia, Brazil and South Africa, the China Daily reported, citing customs data.

Customs data shows that the average price of Chinese exports rose 10.3 percent during the first eight months of this year, in comparison with the same period last year. The figure was 9.1 percentage points higher year-on-year.

However, export amount slowed by 21.8 percentage points to 12.1 percent.

The average price of textile and garment exports, for instance, rose 24.7 percent year on year in July, with 0.9 percent more of such commodities sold abroad; average price of shoes and hats exports rose 18.5 percent, and their quantity up 1.3 percent.

China’s exports surged 24.5 percent year-on-year in August to reach $173.31 billion, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.

From January to August, exports totaled $1.22 trillion, up 23.6 percent; imports totaled $1.13 trillion, up 27.5 percent.

However, the country’s exports growth to the emerging economies such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa exceeded faster.

In the first eight months, ASEAN was China’s third largest trading partner as their bilateral trade totaled $234.61 billion, up 26.6 percent.

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Jul 27

China Watch Blog has picked up a two line article stating that the outlook for China’s exports is uncertain for the rest of the year.

Gao Hucheng, a vice commerce minister, told a news conference on Tuesday that the government needs to keep policies flexible to maintain stable export growth.

The China Daily has reported that China’s exports rose 17.9 percent in June from a year ago, slowing from a 19.4 percent rise in May and pointing to the weakness in overseas demand that has seen exports and new orders soften across most of Asia.

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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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Dec 19

China Watch Blog has learnt that China’s foreign trade volume this year is expected to hit a historic high by exceeding $2.9 trillion, but growing trade protectionism targeting China will continue to pose serious challenges next year, said the Ministry of Commerce.

China Daily reported Zhong Shan, vice-minister of commerce, as saying that he also strongly suggested that China more actively conduct trade-remedy cases against some imports in a reasonable way to help the domestic industries fend off fiercer competition at home and abroad and to guarantee local industrial safety under accepted principles of the World Trade Organization.

“China’s foreign trade has been in fairly good recovery, and the whole-year trade volume is set to break $2.9 trillion,” Zhong said during a trade-remedy forum on Friday.

At the forum, the ministry released the 2010 Report on Global Trade Friction, which says that during the past 10 years, emerging markets including China, India and South Korea have been major targets of trade protectionism worldwide.

Zhong’s forecast means China’s foreign trade will exceed the pre-crisis level this year. In 2008, before the financial crisis, China’s foreign trade was at $2.56 trillion, and last year it dropped to $2.2 trillion.

According to the Chinese customs service, from January to November China’s exports and imports were at $2.68 trillion, a 36.3 percent increase over the same period last year.

But compared with the high-level growth rate of the nation’s foreign trade, “growth for China’s trade surplus has been lagging far behind” because of increasing international trade protectionism against China, Zhong said.

During the first 11 months of this year, China’s trade surplus declined by 3.9 percent year-on-year to $170.4 billion, with exports growing by 33 percent while imports surged by 40.3 percent.

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Dec 15

China Watch Blog has learnt that the Hong Kong government is enhancing its overseas links, and is playing a leading role in strengthening links with major emerging markets overseas.

Chief Secretary Henry Tang, who made these remarks at the Hong Kong Exporters’ Association Christmas luncheon, said these markets have become even more prominent and competitive in the wake of the global financial crisis.

“Our Chief Executive has recently led high-level business delegations to India and Russia. The Financial Secretary also led a similar mission to South America earlier this month.

“These visits help to connect our business community with economies that have great potential for growth and strong buying power. We will continue with these efforts relentlessly, both from senior government executives, and more importantly, from the day to day promotion that’s done by the Trade Development Council. The council is doing, has done and will continue to do great work in looking for new markets and to connect exporters such as yourselves to these markets,” he said.

Tang said although Hong Kong’s economy has emerged relatively strongly from the financial crisis, the global recovery remains uneven.

“The Government will continue to monitor the situation closely and ensure that funds are available to effectively support the development of our small and medium enterprises.

“I encourage eligible applicants to make use of the SME Development Fund to initiate projects. This fund could empower SMEs in brand building and exploring emerging markets in the Mainland and overseas,” he said.

“We intend to seek approval from the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee for allocating an additional $1 billion to the SME Development Fund and the Export Marketing Fund in mid-2011,” Tang said.

The Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation is planning to introduce the market-based SME Financing Guarantee Scheme next month. This will provide our SMEs with an additional financing option.

ECIC coverage extended

“My fourth and final point today relates to the Export Credit Insurance Corporation, or ECIC. Currently companies that have relocated production processes outside Hong Kong and set up subsidiaries in the Mainland or overseas may not benefit from the ECIC.

“The corporation considers that it could extend insurance coverage to these companies. The insurance extension could cover contracts between Hong Kong enterprises’ wholly owned subsidiaries and their buyers.

“This would support our enterprises in tapping overseas and the Mainland markets, particularly in those emerging markets, that I referred to earlier, where credit risks are higher than the traditional ones

“These new arrangements could commence early next year,” Tang said.

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