South China’s Hainan Province sees Foreign Trade up 45.6 percent in the first half of 2019, outpacing the national figure, as the island province speeds up construction of its pilot free trade zone.

Hainan’s Foreign Trade totalled 45.56 billion yuan (about 6.6 billion U.S. dollars) in the period, said the Haikou customs on Thursday. Exports surged 46 percent to 16.45 billion yuan while imports soared 45.4 percent to 29.1 billion yuan in the same period.

The province’s trade with Belt & Road Countries hit 16.5 billion yuan, up 28.9 percent year on year, accounting for 36.3 percent of its total foreign trade.

In the first half of this year, 401 foreign trade enterprises registered in the province, which indicates more companies are willing to engage in foreign trade, according to the customs.

The stable growth in foreign trade is expected to continue in the second half of 2019 as Hainan’s free trade zone develops steadily, said the customs.

Hainan was granted approval in April 2018 to build a pilot free trade zone covering the whole island and explore the establishment of a free trade port with Chinese characteristics.