Review of China’s Foreign Trade in the 1st Quarter 2018


This year, as the world economy keeps recovering and the domestic economy steadily improves, China’s imports and exports registered rapid growth in the first quarter. According to China Customs Statistics, in the first quarter, the value of China’s imports and exports in goods stood at RMB6.75 trillion, an increase of 9.4% year-on-year (similarly hereinafter). Exports increased by 7.4% to RMB3.54 trillion and imports grew by 11.7% to RMB3.21 trillion. The trade surplus shrank by 21.8% to RMB 326.18 billion. The details are as follows:

1. The imports and exports under general trade have increased rapidly in value and grew in proportion. In the first quarter, the value of China’s imports and exports under general trade rose by 13.2% to RMB3.93 trillion, taking up 58.3% of the total imports and exports of the country, 2 percentage points higher than the previous year, which reflected an improved structure of trade modes.

2. Imports and exports to the top three trading partners grew steadily and foreign trade with some countries along the “Belt and Road” enjoyed good momentum of growth. In the first quarter, China’s imports and exports to the EU, the US and ASEAN increased by 8.2%, 6.3% and 13.7%, respectively, altogether accounting for 41.2% of China’s total imports and exports. Over the same period, China’s imports and exports to Russia, Poland and Kazakhstan rose by 20.5%, 16.6% and 16.2%, respectively, all of which are higher than the overall increase rate.

3. The proportion of imports and exports by private enterprises kept increasing. In the first quarter, the imports and exports of private enterprises grew by 14.5% to RMB2.59 trillion, accounting for 38.3% of the total national imports and exports, 1.7 percentage points higher than the same period last year. Exports by private enterprises increased by 11.9% to RMB1.64 trillion, accounting for 46.4% of the total national export value. The private enterprises remain the biggest contributor to China’s exports with their proportion of exports 1.9 percentage point higher than the previous year. Imports by private enterprises grew by 19.4% to RMB 945.92 billion.

4. The imports and exports of central and western China have grown faster than the national figure. In the first quarter, foreign trade grew by 21.3% in twelve provinces and cities in western China and by 13.7% in six provinces and cities in central China, higher than the national rate by 11.9 and 4.3 percentage points, respectively. Foreign trade in ten provinces and cities in eastern China grew by 8.4%, with that of Liaoning Province, Jilin Province and Heilongjiang Province up by 3.4%. Trade growth became increasingly balanced among regions.

5. Electro-mechanical products and traditional labor-intensive products remained the major export goods. In the first quarter, exports of electro-mechanical products increased by 9.5% to RMB2.1 trillion, taking up 59.4% of the total export value. Exports of electrical equipment and electronic products rose by 11.3%, and exports of mechanical devices grew by 11.6%. Over the same period, exports of traditional labor-intensive products stood at RMB646.8 billion, which accounted for 18.3% of the total export value and basically remained unchanged as that of the same period last year.

6. The import of iron ore slightly decreased, while the import of crude oil and soybean increased. The average import prices witnessed both growth and decline. In the first quarter, the import of iron ore was 271 million tons, down by 0.1%. The import of crude oil, soybean, refined oil and copper hit 112 million tons, 19.57 million tons, 8.24 million tons and 1.23 million tons, which increased by 7%, 0.2%, 7.2% and 7.3%, respectively. According to preliminary calculation, in the first quarter, China’s import prices registered an overall increase of 1.7%. The average import prices of crude oil, refined oil and copper increased by 12.8%, 8.3% and 11.4%, respectively, while the average import prices of iron ore and soybean decreased by 16.8% and 8.5%, respectively.

Source: China Customs