China’s exports and imports of goods amounted to $4.16 trillion in 2013, topping the US for the first time.
A new Standard Chartered report by Madhur Jha and other Standard Chartered economists titled “Global Trade Unbundled” highlights just how much of a trading giant China has become.
“China is a true mega-trader — a position last held by colonial Britain, with trade significant not only as a share of world trade (11.5%) but also of its own GDP (47%),” according to Jha.
“China will likely become a champion of free trade.”
The U.S. is China’s top export destination. China’s trade with Latin America has risen more than 200 times since 1990 and is the fastest growing corridor.
China’s trade is however beginning to slow. Exports accounted for about 25% of GDP in 2012, down from 35% in 2007. And the slowdown is broad based.
The good news is despite the slowdown, exports to Latin America and Africa are still growing at “double-digit levels.” Jha and the other authors identity a few reasons they think China will continue to be a leader of world trade.
- The economic recovery in the developed world is a positive for China, as demand picks up.
- “China remains a leading force in world trade, having consolidated its position as key player in global supply chains.”
- While China no longer has the low-cost advantage, it is moving up the value chain and has a larger share in medium and high-tech exports. “We believe it is unlikely that there will be significant migration of these processes out of China for lack of suitable replacement centres, with both the infrastructure and the scale to accommodate these exports.”
- There is too much attention paid to Chinese exports and not enough to imports. “The focus on more balanced growth and structural reforms domestically will, over time, allow for lower savings and higher consumption,” writes Jha. “…Some of this shift towards consumption will filter nto greater imports from the rest of the world, strengthening global trade growth and South-South trade in particular.”
Standard Chartered economists expect Chinese trade to double in size by 2020.
“China’s trade growth is unlikely to rebound to the double-digit level seen over the last couple of decades. However, it is important to remember that the sheer size of China’s trade will mean that even 7% GDP growth, faster than the growth in developed world trade, would make China the single biggest contributor to world trade in absolute terms.”
Here’s a look at the China’s major trade corridors in 1990 and 2012.