China's State Council Information Office hosted a press conference on September 13, during which Chinese customs officials explained China’s trade data for the first three quarters of this year. Overall, China’s trade grew 22.7 percent over the period compared to the same timeframe last year.

According to new data issued by the General Administration of Customs, the total value of China's import and export of goods during the first nine months was 28.33 trillion yuan (approximately 4.4 million USD), a year on year (YOY) increase of 22.7%. Imports and exports  expanded at a similar pace: China’s exports reached 15.55 trillion yuan (2.4 million USD), a 22.7% YOY growth (measured in yuan, for this and all percent changes below); imports reached 12.78 trillion yuan (2 million USD), a 22.6% YOY increase.

China’s total trade, imports, and exports account for approximately 13.2%, 14.5%, and 12% of global trade for the first half of 2021, up 0.8, 0.9, and 0.8 percentage points YOY, respectively, according to Li Kuiwen, spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs and Director of the Department of Statistics and Analysis.

Breaking down this trade by specific trading partners, over the first three quarters, China's trade (both imports and exports) with ASEAN was 4.08 trillion yuan, an increase of 21.1% YOY. “ASEAN continues to maintain its position as China's largest trading partner, accounting for 14.4% of our total foreign trade value,” Li said. During the same period, China’s trade with the European Union, the United States, Japan and South Korea reached 3.88 trillion, 3.52 trillion, 1.78 trillion and 1.7 trillion yuan, increasing by 20.5%, 24.9%, 11.2% and 17.3%, respectively. In addition, its trade with countries along the “Belt and Road” and RCEP members rose by 23.4% and 19.3% respectively, according to Li.

With regard to imports, Li said that the imports of consumer goods, which make up 10% of the total imports, reached 1.29 trillion yuan for the first three quarters, a 14.7% rate of growth. Among these, imports of passenger cars, jewelry, watches, and luggage climbed 31.5%, 63.5%, 42.1%, and 55.8%, respectively, Li said.

On the other hand, data on the customs website shows that the import volume of steel, copper, and plastics in primary forms fell 28.9%, 19.5%, and 14.3% YOY, respectively. Chinese imports of iron ore, soybean and crude oil also decreased in volume compared to one year ago. Li noted that the import prices of major commodities, such as iron ore, crude oil, copper, natural gas, and soybeans, had risen by 67.5%, 32.8%, 37.9%, 5.1% and 29.4% YOY, respectively. The price hike may partially explain the decline of certain goods imports.

Overall, imports from major trading partners, such as ASEAN, EU, US, and countries along the BRI all grew 22.7%, 18.4%, 32.6%, and 24.5%, respectively, over the nine months period compared to last year, according to Li.

With regard to exports, Li highlighted that over the first three quarters, intermediate goods, as well as mechanical and electrical products, witnessed a growth of 29.2% and 23%, respectively, compared to the same period last year. In addition, some labor-intensive products such as toys, furniture, luggage maintained a growth rate of 34.6%, 27.9% and 25.7%, respectively.