Beijing, Apr 14 (efe-epa).- China’s foreign trade fell 6.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020, according to the data released Tuesday, as the country reels under the impact of the coronavirus outbreak that has hit global economic activities.
The performance still exceeded expectations as analysts have warned that the worst was yet to come from the crisis due to the pandemic.
China’s trade exchanges with the rest of the world during the first three months of the year stood at 6.57 trillion yuan ($933 billion), the General Administration of Customs said.
During this period, exports fell 11.4 percent year-on-year to 3.3 trillion yuan while imports declined 0.7 percent to 3.24 trillion yuan.
This resulted in a trade surplus of 98.3 billion yuan, a decline of 80.6 percent from the same period last year.
During March, China’s overall foreign trade fell 0.8 percent year-on-year to 2.45 trillion yuan.
Nonetheless, this data represents an increase in China’s international commercial activity from January and February, when this indicator contracted by 9.6 percent year-on-year as the COVID-19 crisis largely paralyzed the country.
In March, exports dropped 3.5 percent compared to the same month in 2019 while imports grew 2.4 percent.
“China has rolled out a string of policies to help foreign trade firms resume operation amid further containment of COVID-19,” said the General Administration of Customs.
On Apr. 7, the Chinese government announced measures like establishing “pilot zones” to promote cross-border e-commerce, specific support to trade related to processing industries that import raw material and export a final product.
The government also said it planned to hold online international trade fairs canceled at their actual venues due to the virus outbreak.
However, experts have warned that trade could continue to be sluggish in the coming months despite the official measures.
The slight recovery registered in March came mainly on the back of factories reopening and domestic demand picking up after the government eased the restrictions.
However, it seems unlikely that a similar sales rhythm would continue as economic activities have slowed down elsewhere in the world due to the pandemic.
Consultancy firm Capital Economics said the worst was yet to come for China’s export sector.
Analyst Julian Evans-Pritchard warned that despite supply chains for industrial activity restored, overseas demand had plummeted in the first quarter due to the COVID-19 impact.
Imports are set to perform slightly better due to the slow domestic recovery, although the analyst said that around one-fourth of China’s overseas purchases linked to the processing industry.
During the first quarter, trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – China’s largest commercial partner – increased by 6.1 percent year-on-year to 991.34 billion yuan. Trade with the European Union, its second-largest partner, fell by 10.4 percent to 875.9 billion yuan.
Trade with the United States, with whom China has been locked in a longstanding trade war since March 2018, decreased 18.3 percent year-on-year to 668 billion yuan.
In January, Beijing and Washington had reached a truce with China pledging to buy US goods worth $200 billion within two years.