China issues concrete policies to stabilize foreign trade amid epidemic

By Qiu Haifeng, People’s Daily Overseas Edition

Relevant departments of China recently rolled out policies to help enterprises create a favorable business environment to facilitate foreign trade amid the epidemic. Experts believe that these targeted policies issued and implemented will inject further support to China’s import and export.

The novel coronavirus pneumonia might have a short-term influence on China’s foreign trade, but there’s unlikely an impact on the growth trend of the sector, experts said.

A company in Jingning county, Pingliang in northwest China’s Gansu province recently exported $104,000 worth of fresh apples in three batches, which marked the first deal of export of the province since it activated first-level emergency response to contain the spread of the viral pneumonia.

According to an official with Lanzhou Customs District, Gansu province, Lanzhou customs departments, since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, have done a thorough research in advance on the business plans of each foreign trade company in the city to guarantee normal operation. The customs services of the city are also available online, said the official.

Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Bingnan introduced that departments and local governments are implementing targeted policies for foreign trade companies to help them nurture a favorable business environment and relieve burdens as they are currently recovering capacity.

The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) introduced that affected by the epidemic, enterprises that can’t fulfill their foreign trade contracts or can’t perform them on time shall apply for force majeure certificates from the CCPIT.

The certificates can absolve parties of liability for contracts that can’t be fulfilled due to extraordinary circumstances beyond their control, so as to maximumly protect the legitimate interests of the enterprises.

The certificates have been issued by the CCPIT and its branches to a large number of enterprises in Zhejiang province, Liaoning province and Shenzhen of Guangdong province.

Apart from guaranteeing export, policies are also released to support import. The Ministry of Finance, General Administration of Customs and State Taxation Administration recently issued a joint notice, saying China would adopt more favorable tariffs from Jan. 1 to March 31 this year.

It is learnt that the notice expanded the scope of the duty-free donated supplies, targeting at epidemic control materials such as reagents, protective supplies, and ambulances. It will further contribute to the epidemic prevention and control.

Meanwhile, China expanded the import of medical supplies and relevant raw materials, and is actively increasing agricultural supplies such as meat through import. Statistics from the Ministry of Commerce indicated that 640,000 tons of imported meat and beef arrived at port in January, up by 190 percent from a year ago. Some leading import enterprises plan to import over 100,000 tons of meat each in the first quarter, which also registers a sharp rise, the ministry said.

Wang Xiaohong, deputy director of the information department of China Center for International Economic Exchanges believes that the epidemic’s impact on foreign trade is limited and controllable.

The expert introduced that the export of mechanical and electrical products, as well as high-tech and high value-added products is on a rapid growth, and the trade of knowledge-intensive services is also surging. In addition, new business models in the foreign trade sector such as cross-border e-commerce, comprehensive services as well as marketing purchase have kept high-speed growth for three consecutive years.

The continuously optimized foreign trade structure and constantly improved upgrading of the value chain will help China offset the impact of the epidemic and reinforce the country’s confidence to cope with the current difficulty.

Wang Bingnan said that the WHO recognizes China’s performance in epidemic prevention and control, and opposes imposing travel or trade restrictions on China, adding that the organization believes the parcels coming from China are safe.

“We have the confidence and capability to win the battle against the epidemic, and believe that the government and market entities in different links of the global value chain will offer more facilitation for Chinese products and services and commodities exported to China,” he said.