Workers work at a workshop in an intelligent equipment industrial park in Wen'an County, Langfang City, Hebei Province in north China on May 12 (XINHUA)
China will establish new pilot zones for cross-border e-commerce, support the processing trade and host an online Canton Fair to stabilize foreign trade and investment amid the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), according to an executive meeting of the State Council.
The meeting, presided over by Premier Li Keqiang, also decided to continue preferential tax policies for inclusive financial service and micro-loan companies in a bid to help small- and micro-businesses, self-employed individuals and farmers tide over.
The accelerating spread of the pandemic brought shocks to the global economy and international trade and investment. Authorities at all levels must continue with the opening-up policy and adopt measures to stabilize foreign trade and investment to blunt the pandemic's impacts on the country's economy and especially the job market, the meeting said.
In addition to the 59 cross-border e-commerce pilot zones already set up, China will establish 46 new ones and exempt retail export goods in all pilot zones from value-added tax and consumption tax, while encouraging companies to jointly build and share overseas warehouses.
China's foreign trade showed signs of stabilizing in March with export and import both beating bearish market expectations, official data showed on April 14.
Exports dipped 3.5 percent year on year in yuan terms last month while imports climbed 2.4 percent, data from the General Administration of Customs (GAC) showed.
A staff member delivers goods for exports in Qingdao FTZ Handan (Jize) Branch of Handan City, Hebei Province in north China on May 5 (XINHUA)
In March, foreign trade of goods totaled 2.45 trillion yuan ($348 billion), down 0.8 percent year on year, compared with a decline of 9.5 percent during the January-February period, the GAC said.
In the first quarter, foreign trade of goods fell 6.4 percent year on year to 6.57 trillion yuan ($933 billion).
Exports dropped 11.4 percent to 3.33 trillion yuan ($468 billion) while imports dipped 0.7 percent to 3.24 trillion yuan ($456 billion) during the first three months, resulting in a trade surplus of 98.33 billion yuan ($13.85 billion), down 80.6 percent year on year, customs data showed.
China's trade with countries along the Belt and Road bucked the trend of weakened growth in the first three months, rising 3.2 percent year on year.
ASEAN overtook the European Union as China's largest trading partner in Q1, with bilateral trade up 6.1 percent year on year to over 991 billion yuan ($139.6 billion).
"China is highly resilient and competitive in foreign trade, and its firms are strong in innovation and market development," GAC spokesman Li Kuiwen said at a news conference on April 14.
Still, as the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on global economy, a contraction in global demand will inevitably show its impact on China's exports and the difficulties ahead can not be underestimated, Li said.
The World Trade Organization predicted that global trade would fall by between 13 percent and 32 percent in 2020 due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, and all regions of the world are expected to suffer double-digit declines in their trade.
China has rolled out a string of policies to help foreign trade firms resume operation amid further containment of COVID-19 at home.
The firms have been advancing work and production resumption in an orderly manner, with more than 76 percent of key firms in the sector having recovered over 70 percent of their production capacity as of April 9, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
The ministry has pledged to facilitate sales of export products in domestic market, as part of efforts to stabilize foreign trade amid slump in global trade.
In particular, domestic sales of goods in processing trade will be advanced to support the sector, which accounts for one-fourth of China's foreign trade and was hard-hit by supply and demand disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.