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$10t in trade in services to be imported

Zheng Yiran/Zhong Nan
Updated: Sep 07,2020 07:25 AM    China Daily

China will import more than $10 trillion worth of services over the next 15 years to support the global economy and enrich its opening-up, according to a senior commerce official.

Trade in services has become a new driving force for international trade growth, as well as an impetus for economic growth, and China's development in service trade will benefit the world, Vice-Minister of Commerce Wang Bingnan said on Sept 5 at a forum at the ongoing 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing.

In the recent years, China has promoted the high-quality development of service trade with a more open attitude, expanded service imports, created a huge market for global service trade development and contributed to promoting the open and inclusive growth of the global economy, he said.

During the past 15 years, the average annual growth rate of China's service trade exports reached 9 percent, 2.9 percentage points higher than the global level, according to the Commerce Ministry. During that period, China imported $4.5 trillion worth of services, contributing 12.9 percent to the growth of global service trade imports.

Ma Jiantang, secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group of the Development Research Center of the State Council, said on Sept 5, "China has been stepping up efforts in opening-up, and the service trade industry has experienced rapid growth."

China has been constantly developing service trade pilot zones, Ma said. In 2019, there were 17 service trade pilot zones nationwide, and their trade volume accounted for over 75 percent of the national total. The development pace in the zones was faster than the national average.

"This year, the number of service trade pilot zones will increase to 28, basically forming an all-around layout," he said.

To boost the development of the service trade industry, the ministry said China will further lower market access barriers for the industry, continue to reduce the negative list of foreign investment access and accelerate the opening-up process of sectors including healthcare, culture, education and telecommunications.

Trade in services covers, among other sectors, commerce, communications, construction and related engineering, finance, entertainment, culture and sports, tourism, education and the environment.

Companies see potential

Jens Eskelund, managing director of Maersk China Ltd, the world's largest container ship operator by fleet size, said the company sees significant future development potential in China's service trade sector. The country has sweepingly improved its logistics and transportation efficiency in the coastal provinces, he said.

"There is, however, still room to improve on efficiency and develop logistics infrastructure on many inland locations. This is not just to serve demand in inland provinces," he said.

"We will continue to invest in the landside business in the coming years in China," Eskelund said, adding that Maersk China started operating its first automated warehouse in China with a local partner in July and will build more such facilities across the country.

Norman Sze, managing partner of government affairs at Deloitte China, said the accounting and professional services company has found strong growth potential in China's service trade market, particularly in the areas of digital economy, urbanization and coordinated regional development.

"It is fairly practical for the government to encourage the country's fast-growing regions such as Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the Yangtze River Delta region and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region to collaborate and support the growth of modern trade in services", he said.