China managed to maintain generally steady trade growth in the first three quarters of this year though global uncertainties weighed on trade demands.

The country’s foreign trade rose 2.8 percent year on year during the January-September period, with exports expanding 5.2 percent and imports dipping 0.1 percent, data from the General Administration of Customs showed Monday.

Foreign trade in the first nine months kept growing and the trade structure kept improving despite slowing global economic and trade growth and more complex external environment, said spokesman Li Kuiwen.

A total of 464,000 firms reported trade activities during this period, up 5.9 percent year on year. The number of private firms rose 8.7 percent to 374,000, and they achieved a 5.1-percent trade growth.

Despite the drop in overall imports, Chinese people’s appetite for imported goods remained high, as consumer goods imports rose 15.3 percent year on year. Imported fruits, cosmetics, aquatic products and electric automobiles increased 42.3 percent, 39.9 percent, 35.9 percent and 93.7 percent, respectively.

The country’s industrial upgrading drove electro-mechanical products, which took the lion’s share of China’s exports, to grow 4.7 percent during this period.

Li attributed the resilient trade growth to China’s stable economic expansion, effective policy support and market diversification.

Chinese authorities have cut taxes on imports and facilitated customs clearance, cutting the clearance time for imports and exports by 56.4 percent and 64.7 percent respectively in the first nine months compared with 2017.

China’s trade with its major trading partners continued to see steady growth, while momentum in new markets stayed robust. Trade with African countries and those participating in the Belt & Road Initiative rose 7.5 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively.

The data showed China’s foreign trade was gaining strength in countering downward pressure, said Zhao Ping, a researcher with the Academy of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.

The trade data came ahead of the second China International Import Expo, which is slated to be held from Nov. 5 to 10 in Shanghai, with over 3,000 enterprises from about 150 countries and regions to display their products and services.

Li noted that uncertainties and complexities facing trade expansion are expected to increase as several global organisations are downbeat about international economic and trade growth.

The World Trade Organisation predicted global goods trade to grow 1.2 percent in 2019, down from the 3-percent growth registered in 2018.

“However, China will continue to maintain generally stable growth and steady quality improvement in trade thanks to the sector’s strong resilience, optimising mix and shifting drivers,” Li said.

Zhao expected that festivals and holidays in the fourth quarter as well as improving corporate earnings might lend steam to China’s trade growth.

The Chinese economy is shifting from being driven by investment and exports to consumption. Net exports contributed 20.7 percent of GDP growth in the first half of this year, while consumption contributed 60.1 percent, official data showed.