Against external headwinds such as cooling prospects for overseas demand and lingering geopolitical conflicts, China's foreign trade in goods is expected to keep expanding this year, according to experts and business executives on Friday.
The optimization of China's COVID-19 measures will build up the country's industrial and supply chain resilience and trade competitiveness, while relatively fast trade expansion with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership members and Belt and Road economies will continue, they said.
Their comments came as the General Administration of Customs said on Friday that despite multiple negative factors, China's goods trade surged 7.7 percent year-on-year to a record 42.07 trillion yuan ($6.26 trillion) last year, making the country the world's largest trader in goods for the sixth successive year. In US dollar terms, the growth rate was around 7 percent.
The corresponding figure for December was 3.77 trillion yuan, up 0.6 percent year-on-year, which also exceeded analysts' expectations.
"China's optimization of the COVID-19 control measures will facilitate its economic recovery and firm up foreign enterprises' confidence in the stability of China's supply chains," said Gao Lingyun, director of the international investment division at the Institute of World Economics and Politics, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Gao added that it will also offset the impact on the country's trade from efforts in some countries to encourage enterprises to develop additional manufacturing sites outside China.
GAC spokesman Lyu Daliang said at a news conference on Friday that China's foreign trade performance is underpinned by strong product competitiveness, an expanding domestic market and policies that will further invigorate foreign trade-related market entities.
Zhou Maohua, an analyst at China Everbright Bank, said that despite some downward pressure, China's strong resilience in trade will lead to its expansion both in terms of its scale and quality.
"The global trade market is still growing. More importantly, China's trade with ASEAN and the Belt and Road economies is expanding stably, and its foreign trade enterprises have admirable flexibility and innovation capacity," he said.
GAC data showed that ASEAN remained China's largest trading partner in 2022, followed by the European Union and the United States.
Trade between China and ASEAN grew 15 percent year-on-year in 2022, while trade with the EU went up 5.6 percent over the same period, and it grew by 3.7 percent year-on-year with the US.
During a meeting with US-China Business Council President Craig Allen via video link on Thursday, Wang Wentao, China's commerce minister, said China and the US share a wide range of common interests and room for cooperation.
He urged the US to take a proper view of the opportunities that China's development has brought to the US and the world, and get bilateral economic and trade relations back on track at an early date.
Allen said he hopes that the two sides will enhance mutual trust, and strengthen communication and cooperation.
China's trade with ASEAN members, RCEP countries and Belt and Road economies will continue to be a bright spot in 2023, according to experts.
"The entry into force of the RCEP agreement in Indonesia will boost regional trade. As time goes by, Chinese enterprises will get more familiar with the agreement to make better use of its trade liberalization and facilitation provisions," said Li Yong, chief researcher at D&C Thinktank.
Li Yanhong, an executive with Carer Medical Technology Co Ltd, a medical oxygen concentrator and compression device manufacturer in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, said the company is strengthening its efforts to further tap Southeast Asian markets.