China witnessed steady progress in foreign trade last year with both imports and exports hitting new highs.

The country is expected to keep its No.1 position in the world in terms of trade in goods, officials said at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office on Monday.

China’s foreign trade volume reached 30.51 trillion yuan (about 4.5 trillion U.S. dollars), an increase of 9.7 percent compared to that of 2017, hitting a record high. Exports rose 7.1 percent year on year to 16.42 trillion yuan last year while imports grew 12.9 percent to 14.09 trillion yuan, resulting in a trade surplus of 2.33 trillion yuan, an 18.3 percent drop, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) revealed at the briefing.

Annual Import & Export Volumes Hit New Highs

Back in 2005, China’s trade volume exceeded 10 trillion yuan for the first time. In 2010, it surpassed 20 trillion yuan. In 2018, the trade volume went beyond 30 trillion yuan, 2.7 trillion yuan higher than 2017.

Last year, China’s general trade volume stood at 17.64 trillion yuan, an increase of 12.5 percent, accounting for 57.8 percent of the country’s total trade volume, 1.4 percentage higher than 2017.

Trade Volume with Major Trading Partners Rises

China’s trade volume with its three largest trading partners – the EU, the U.S. and ASEAN countries picked up by 7.9 percent, 5.7 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively. The combination of the three accounted for 41.2 percent of the country’s total trade volume.

Trade with countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) also saw good momentum last year, with an 8.37 trillion-yuan trade volume, up by 13.3 percent.

Private Sector Stands Out

The private sector contributed to more than half of the growth of the national imports and exports last year.

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Photo: Private Sector Trade Volume accounts to 39.7 Percent of the China’s Total Volume.

The trade volume of China’s private enterprises reached 12.1 trillion yuan, up by 12.9 percent year on year, accounting for 39.7 percent of the country’s total volume. The export volume of the private sector totalled 7.87 trillion yuan, an increase of 10.4 percent, standing as the largest among all market operators.

The trade volume of foreign-invested enterprises, in the same period, stood at 13 trillion yuan, an increase of 4.3 percent, taking up 42.6 percent of the country’s total trade volume. China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) reached 5.3 trillion yuan in trade volume, up by 16.8 percent.

Trade Structure Continues to Improve

Last year, China’s trade structure further improved with the electro-mechanical products covering a higher proportion of exports. Exports of the products grew by 7.9 percent to 9.65 trillion yuan, accounting for 58.8 percent of the total export volume.

Exports of automobiles and mobile phones increased by 8.3 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively. Exports of major labour-intensive products rose by 1.2 percent to 3.12 trillion yuan, accounting for 19 percent of the total export volume.

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Photo: Domestic Warehouse

Imports of Major Bulk Commodities Grow

China’s imports of major bulk commodities like crude oil, natural gas and copper grew in both volume and price, while imports of iron ore and soybeans dropped in volume.

China imported 462 million tons of crude oil, 90.39 million tons of natural gas and 33.48 million tons of refined oil, up by 10.1 percent, 31.9 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Over the same period, the country imported 1.06 billion tons of iron ore and 88.03 million tons of soybeans, down by 1 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively.

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Photo: Imported Soybeans are offloaded from a ship at Port in Nantong, Jiangsu Province – China.