China's foreign trade tumbles 10.8% in Jan
Updated: 2015-02-08 10:55
BEIJING - China's foreign trade tumbled in January as major data experienced routine decline ahead of the upcoming Chinese lunar New Year, or Spring Festival.
The total trade volume stood at 2.09 trillion yuan ($341.16 billion) last month, down 10.8 percent year-on-year, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said Sunday.
Exports dropped 3.2 percent to 1.23 trillion yuan and imports slumped 19.7 percent to 860 billion yuan, making the trade surplus expand 87.5 percent to 366.9 billion yuan, according to the GAC data.
"Spring Festival impacts foreign trade data at the beginning of every year," the GAC said in a press release.
The festival, an important time for family reunions, occurs in January or February along with a 40-day travel rush. It is due on Feb 19 and the rush is estimated to cover 2.8 billion trips this year.
"The trade data always turns out discouraging at every year's beginning because of the Lunar New Year," Liu Xuezhi, a financial researcher with the Bank of Communications, explained. "The data thereafter can reflect the real situation of China's foreign trade."
He said withering exports, especially of labor-intensive industries, reveal the weakening advantage in formerly-dominant areas.
Labor-intensive industries including Machinery, garments, textiles, shoes, toys, furniture and plastics exports all saw remarkable drops last month.
He attributed the sharp decrease in imports to lower price of bulk commodities and ongoing industrial upgrades while phasing out overcapacity.
Li Jian, a researcher with the Ministry of Commerce, said the contraction in exports is partly caused by different economic situations of China's major trade partners.
He said the stable economic recovery of the United States can not offset the negative effects from the floundering Europe Union (EU), Japan and some emerging economies.
The GAC data showed that China's exports to the EU and Japan dropped 4.4 percent and 20.4 percent, respectively. Even exports from the mainland to Hong Kong contracted more than 10 percent in January.
Except for the slight import growth of 0.7 percent from China's Taiwan to the mainland, the imports from the other nine largest trade partners all ended in decline, the GAC said.
However, analysts forecast China's 2015 foreign trade will realize steady growth through a better trade environment and stronger policy supports for the "Belt and Road" initiatives, construction of more free trade zones and cross-border e-commerce, but risks and challenges remain.
They believe exports will face downward pressure in Q1 and the start of Q2, considering the disappointing result of GAC's latest survey of export companies and the further reduction in new export orders in last month's manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI).