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Imports from US expand in new areas, reflecting a shift in Sino-US trade structure: analysts

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  • Nov.07,2018

China's import structure from the US is slowly shifting from dependence on primary goods, such as oil and agricultural products, to incorporating more categories such as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) as well as high-technology products, experts told the Global Times on Monday. 


They made the comments on the opening day of the China International Import Expo (CIIE), China's first large-scale import exhibition, which is being held in Shanghai from Monday to Saturday.

Nearly 180 US companies are attending this CIIE, data from the Ministry of Commerce showed on Saturday. For those companies, high-technology product manufacturing is a key area, with participants like Qualcomm, 3M and Medtronic. FMCG are also being highlighted, with US consumer goods sellers like Revlon, Mars and Mane'n Tail presenting products at the event. 

This reflects a kind of shift in the Sino-US import structure in recent years, showing that China is expanding import product categories beyond the primary goods (oil, agricultural products) it has previously focused on buying from the US, Lin Guijun, vice president of the University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times on Monday.

China's rapid economic development has empowered overseas companies to broaden the products they bring into China, especially the introduction of products with higher added value, experts said.

For example, Stephen Shafer, president of US manufacturing firm 3M's Greater China Area, told the Global Times in a recent email interview that the company brought only "very basic products" into China in 1984 to help serve the country's infrastructure boom, but gradually the company brought in more and more choices such as safety and healthcare products, as the Chinese market released more and more market demand during its economic transformation. 

Chinese e-commerce giant also announced on Monday that it would spend nearly 100 billion yuan ($14.44 billion) during the CIIE for purchases, including products of US brands like Dell and Marantz. 

Apart from high-tech products, Chinese consumers are also increasing spending on US-made FMCGs like cosmetics and snacks. 

According to Lin, China used to have limited foreign currency and was reluctant to spend on imports like snacks that are not essential to people's lives, but now the situation has completely changed. 

Huang Jianzhong, a finance professor at Shanghai Normal University, also stressed that the proportion of daily consumption goods in China's imports from the US would rise. 

"With the rapid rise of e-commerce, I don't think imports of daily consumption goods from the US will be as much affected by external trade policy fluctuations as other products like machinery or grain," he told the Global Times on Monday. 

Public demand for US daily consumption goods is also becoming more diversified and sophisticated with Chinese consumers' rising spending power. For example, a WeChat store owner surnamed Zhang, who sells US-made fragrant candles, told the Global Times on Monday that her sales have grown very fast in recent months. 

"This is not something I expected," she said, adding that she has raised the prices of her products once so far but this is not affecting their popularity. 

A statement sent to the Global Times by Hema, the new retail supermarket chain under China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, showed that nuts, whiskey, cocoa beans and potato chips are among the US-made bestsellers at Hema, while Alaska king crabs and Washington cherries are also very popular among Chinese consumers. 

Overall, China imported $153.9 billion worth of products from the US in 2017, according to customs data. This compared with $3.86 billion imports from the US in 1985, data showed.