flag China China: Trade Profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards

 

Foreign Trade in Figures

Thanks to its enormous trade surplus over the past few years, China has become the world's largest exporter and ranks second among the world’s largest importers. Despite its strict policies, the country is fairly open to foreign trade, which represented 35% of its GDP in 2020 (World Bank, 2022). China's main exports include Electrical and electronic equipment (27%), machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers (17%), furniture, lighting signs, prefabricated buildings (4,2%), plastics (3,7%), optical, photo, technical, medical apparatus (3,1%), vehicles other than railway, tramway (2.9%), other made textile articles, sets, worn clothing (2,9%). On the other hand, the country mainly imports Electrical and electronic equipment (27%), Mineral fuels, oils, distillation products (13%), machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers (9,3%), iron ores slag and ash (8.8%), optical, photo, technical, medical apparatus (4,8%), vehicles other than railway, tramway (3.6%). The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is forecasting a rebound of 5.7% in the volume of exports of goods and services of this country in 2022, after an increase of 4% in 2020; and an increase of only 3.2% of its imports in 2022 after a jump of 10.9% in 2021 and 0% in 2020 (IMF Country Report, 2021).

The country's main partners include the United States, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Australia and Germany. Tensions in the U.S. - China economic relationship have heightened business uncertainties in 2020 and 2021, given that the US is the country's main trade partner (China's 2020 trade surplus with the U.S. was USD 255.5 billion after an all-time record of 323.3 billion in 2018). Similar tensions were at play with Australia although with less consequences for China. However, the Chinese government has been adopting looser economic policies to mitigate mounting risks to future growth. On the 15th of November 2020 China has signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 14 other Indo-Pacific countries. This free trade agreement is the largest trade deal in history, covering 30 per cent of the global economy. It includes the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN : Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and ASEAN’s free trade agreement partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea). The RCEP covers goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation. It also creates new rules for electronic commerce, intellectual property, government procurement, competition, and small and medium sized enterprises.

Trade has become an increasingly important part of China’s overall economy, and it has been a significant tool used for economic modernisation. As reported by WTO in 2021, exports of goods in 2020 were USD 2,590.2 billion and imports USD 2,057.2 billion, while exports and imports of services in 2020 reached USD 278 billion and USD 377.5 billion respectively. China reported an overall 5% increase in exports and 8% decrease in imports for 2020. According to the World Bank data of 2021, China's trade surplus for goods stood at USD 535,37 billion in 2020, an increase from USD 425.2 billion in 2019. The overall trade balance (including services) was USD 369.67 billion in 2020, from 131.84 billion the previous year.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 1,587,4311,843,7932,135,7482,078,3862,057,217
Exports of Goods (million USD) 2,098,1612,263,3452,486,6952,499,4572,590,221
Imports of Services (million USD) 453,014464,133520,683496,967377,528
Exports of Services (million USD) 208,488226,389269,697281,651278,084

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 36.937.637.535.834.5
Trade Balance (million USD) 488,883475,941380,074392,993515,000
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 255,737217,01087,905131,844369,673
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 17.317.918.317.316.0
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 19.619.719.118.518.5

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 19.74.64.83.83.8
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 19.18.55.84.54.1

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
United States 17.5%
Hong Kong SAR, China 10.5%
Japan 5.5%
Vietnam 4.4%
South Korea 4.3%
See More Countries 57.8%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
Japan 8.4%
South Korea 8.4%
United States 6.6%
China
6.1%
Australia 5.7%
See More Countries 64.9%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 

Main Products

2,589.1 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line...Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 8.6%
Automatic data processing machines and units...Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 6.6%
Electronic integrated circuits and microassembliesElectronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 4.5%
Made up articles of textile materials, incl. dress...Made up articles of textile materials, incl. dress patterns, n.e.s. 2.1%
Lamps and lighting fittings, incl. searchlights...Lamps and lighting fittings, incl. searchlights and spotlights, and parts thereof, n.e.s; illuminated signs, illuminated name-plates and the like having a permanently fixed light source, and parts thereof, n.e.s. 1.5%
See More Products 76.7%
2,069.6 bn USD of products imported in 2020
Electronic integrated circuits and microassembliesElectronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 16.9%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 8.6%
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 6.0%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 2.2%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 2.2%
See More Products 64.1%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import/Export Flows.

 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

 

Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
Chinese Yuan (Renminbi) (CNY)
Exchange Rate Regime
Managed floating exchange rate regime, allowing Central Bank interventions.
Level of Currency Instability
Significant risks of instability. Volatility may increase with China’s economic slowdown, a change in U.S. monetary policy or international pressures on the Government for a revaluation of the currency.
Exchange Rate on :

 
 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Chinese Yuan (Renminbi) (CNY) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 CAD 5.015.215.105.315.15

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

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Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
International Economic Cooperation
China is a member of the following international economic organisations: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (dialogue partner of ASEAN Plus Three), G-20, G-24 (observer), G-5, G-77, IMF, Pacific Alliance (observer), WTO, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates China click here. International organisation membership of China is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
China is a member of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) signed on 15 November 2020. The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by China can be consulted here.
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets
Yes

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Party of the TIR Convention
No

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
Goods dispatched in China must be accompanied by the following documents:
- Certificates of origin
- The unique data folder (DAU)
- Commercial invoice (in 3 copies and in English.
)
- Sale contract in three copies
- A certificate of plant health (for food and agricultural products
)
- A health certificate (for meat
)
- A certificate indicating fit for human consumption
- A certificate of fumigation (for the wooden pallets).
- Certificate of Community origin (for imports coming from the EU.)
- Certificate of free sale for cosmetics.
- Transport documents and packing lists.
- Translation of the components/ingredients in Chinese.

To go further, check out our service Shipping Documents.

Free-trade zones
China counts 21 Free-Trade Zones (FTZ). The first designated Free-Trade Zones opened in Shanghai in 2013, followed by Guangdong, Tianjin and Fujian in 2015. The up-to-date full list of Chinese Free Trade Zones, including China’s six new Free Trade Zones established in 2019 (Jiangsu, Shandong, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Guanxi, and Yunnan), can be consulted here.
For Further Information
Customs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Commerce
Non Tariff Barriers
Only companies or institutions authorised by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation (MOFTEC) can run foreign trade operations. Two methods are possible: Foreign Trade Companies or producing companies entitled to trade with foreigners (import for their personal use provided they have stable export balances). While only 14 companies were authorised to engage in foreign trade operations in China in 1979, there are nearly 9,000 companies authorised today.

More than half of value imports to China are subject to import licenses. Initial authorisation is issued by various organisations (according to the product), but the final delivery is subject to acceptance by the MOFTEC. To obtain these authorisations, the importer must have exact foreign exchange reserves and justify the necessity to import. Delivery of licenses often depends on the sphere of activity, which may be encouraged, allowed, restricted or simply prohibited, according to the investments regulation promulgated by China. In any case, it is imperative to have solid relations within the Chinese Administration for obtaining these licenses.

Many goods imported into China are subject to inspection. In order to ensure conformity with Chinese customs standards, certain products- textiles, in particular- are subject to inspection prior to arrival in China. Other products can undergo inspection at the port of entry.

Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
Paper, products containing metals (steel, iron, tin, etc), integrated circuits, automobile parts, intellectual property, etc.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
Pages of WTO dedicated to China
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the United States
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the EU
Sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, inventoried by the EU

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Standards

National Standards Organisations
Standardization Administration of the PRC (SAC)
Integration in the International Standards Network
Member of:
- The International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) and of the International Electronic Commission (IEC)
- The APEC/SCSC, Sub-committee of Standards and Conformity of the Organisation of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
- The ASEM/TFAP/SCA, Plan and Standards of action for facilitation of commercial exchanges and evaluation of conformity of the Asia-Europe Dialogue (ASEM)
- The Congress of Standards for the Pacific Zone (PASC)
Obligation to Use Standards
Standards in China fall into at least one of four broad categories: national standards, industry standards, local or regional standards, and enterprise standards for individual companies. National standards can be either mandatory (technical regulations, protection of public health, private property and safety) or voluntary, and take precedence over all other types of standards. Laws and regulations can reference voluntary standards, thereby making the voluntary standard, in effect, mandatory. For certain products, China requires that a safety and quality certification mark (CCC) be obtained. Numerous government agencies in China mandate industry-specific standards or testing requirements for products under their jurisdiction in addition to the GB standards and the CCC mark.
Classification of Standards
List of Chinese Codes and Standards.
Assessment of the System of Standardization
Respect of standards is important for the Chinese.
Online Consultation of Standards
Publications relating to the Chinese standards of the SAC.
Certification Organisations
CCC Chinese Obligatory Certification
Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) Administration of Certification and Accreditation of China
Certification Organisations
AQSIQ
Associations of Standards Users
China Association for Standardization

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Latest Update: October 2022