China’s Eastern Province Shandong reported a 12 percent year-on-year growth in trade with Belt & Road Countries in the first quarter, despite a slight drop in overall foreign trade due to the coronavirus epidemic, local authorities said Wednesday.

In the first quarter of this year, Shandong’s total foreign trade value was 446.75 billion yuan (about 63 billion U.S. dollars), down 3.6 per cent from the same period last year.

Imports and exports of foreign invested enterprises in Shandong dropped 17.7 per cent to 104.39 billion yuan in the first quarter, while foreign trade of private enterprises in the province registered a 2.9-per cent growth to 299.36 billion yuan, according to Shi Yong, deputy director of Qingdao Customs.

Shandong’s trade with Countries along the Belt & Road (B&R) totalled 145.4 billion yuan, up 12 per cent from the same period last year, accounting for 32.5 per cent of Shandong’s total foreign trade in the first quarter.

Zhang Yibing, Deputy Director of Jinan Customs, said that the increase was driven by strong trade growth with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, smooth operation of China-Europe freight train services and the growth of bulk commodity imports.

“Trade with Belt & Road Countries has become an important support for stable development of foreign trade in Shandong,” said Zhang.