China gets appetite for containerised imports.
China's international trade in containerised goods tipped dramatically in favour of imports last year as the deep recession in Europe and the US hit the country"s exports, writes Janet Porter.
Imports" share of China"s total containerised traffic soared from a quarter to a third between 2008-2009, according to new figures from the Seabury consulting group, which obtains its data from customs statistics and then cross-checks against other sources.
In recent years, containerised exports have accounted for well over 70% of the total, until 2009 when they slumped to around 67% as most commodities suffered a collapse in overseas demand as the slump began.
Overall, China"s containerised ocean traffic declined by 9% in 2009, with exports contracting by 16.7%. But import volumes were up by 11.4% compared with 2008.
As imports grew in importance, so too did the dependency on China of some of the world"s major economies, including the US, Germany and Japan.
Seabury found that the share of US exports to China climbed to around 25% in 2009 from little more than 10% at the start of the decade. In contrast, containerised exports to Japan slipped from nearly 20% to well under 10%.
The same pattern is repeated elsewhere, with 22% of German exports destined for China last year, compared with just 9% in 2002. At the same time the share of German exports to the US shrank from 27% to 16%.
Japan shipped 32% of its exports to China last year, more than double the percentage in 2000.
China"s influence is proving to be just as dramatic in its export trades.
US imports from China accounted for 52% of the total in 2009 compared with 31% in 2000, whereas the combined inbound shipments from Japan, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Taiwan and South Korea fell from 29% to 16%, according to Seabury data.
In Germany"s case, imports from China soared to nearly half the total from about a third in 2000, whereas imports for the US continued to slide. Japan"s imports from China followed a similar trend.
Last year, China"s exports gradually picked up, but it was not until the fourth quarter that most commodities moved back into positive territory. Exports of semi-finished industrial goods and furniture totalled 2.1m teu in the last three months of 2009, representing 6% year-on-year growth. Footwear, travel goods and personal hygiene items were up 15% in the final quarter, while there was a 17% recovery in chemicals, tyres and construction materials.