flag China China: Trade Profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards


Foreign Trade in Figures

Thanks to its enormous trade surplus over the past few years, China has become the world's largest exporter and ranks second among the world’s largest importers. Despite its strict policies, the country is fairly open to foreign trade, which represented 37% of its GDP in 2022 (World Bank). In the same year, China remained the largest trader of goods throughout the world for the sixth consecutive year. China's main exports include telephones (7.7%), automatic data-processing machines (5.2%), electronic integrated circuits (4.3%), semiconductors (1.8%), and electronic accumulators (1.6%). On the other hand, the country mainly imports electronic integrated circuits (15.3%), petroleum oils (13.5%), iron ores (4.7%), petroleum gas (3.3%), and gold (2.8% - data Comtrade).

In 2022, exports were directed mostly towards the United States (16.2%), Hong Kong SAR, China (8.3%), Japan (4.8%), South Korea (4.5%), and Vietnam (4.1%); whereas imports came chiefly from South Korea (7.4%), Japan (6.8%), the United States (6.6%), Australia (5.2%), and Russia (4.2% - data Comtrade). In the same year, China's trade in goods with the ASEAN, the EU, and the U.S. respectively surged 15%, 5.6%, and 3.7% to CNY 6.52 trillion, CNY 5.65 trillion, and CNY 5.05 trillion. China's trade with countries along the Belt and Road rose 19.4% year-on-year and accounted for 32.9% of the nation's total foreign trade, up 3.2 percentage points. The country's trade with the other 14 members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership increased by 7.5% (data General Administration of Customs). On the 15th of November 2020, China signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 14 other Indo-Pacific countries. This free trade agreement is the largest trade deal in history, covering 30 per cent of the global economy. It includes the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and ASEAN’s free trade agreement partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea). The RCEP covers goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation. It also creates new rules for electronic commerce, intellectual property, government procurement, competition, and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Trade has become an increasingly important part of China’s overall economy, and it has been a significant tool used for economic modernisation. As reported by WTO, in 2022, exports of goods and services reached USD 3.59 trillion and USD 424 billion, respectively (+7% and +8.1% year-on-year). Imports of goods totalled USD 2.71 trillion, and those of services USD 465 billion (+1% and +8.9% year-on-year). According to the World Bank, the overall balance of trade was positive by 3.2% of GDP (from +2.6% one year earlier). In 2023, the country's foreign trade stood at CNY 41.76 trillion (about USD 5.87 trillion ), according to preliminary figures from the General Administration of Customs (GAC). Exports grew 0.6% y-o-y to CNY 23.77 trillion, while imports edged down 0.3% from one year earlier to CNY 17.99 trillion.

Foreign Trade Values 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 2,078,3862,065,9622,679,4122,706,5072,556,802
Exports of Goods (million USD) 2,499,4572,589,9523,316,0223,544,4343,380,024
Imports of Services (million USD) 500,680381,088426,998465,053551,995
Exports of Services (million USD) 283,192280,629394,273424,056381,121

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO), Latest data available.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 37.635.934.837.338.1
Trade Balance (million USD) 380,074392,993511,103562,706668,633
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 87,905131,844358,573461,494576,330
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 18.517.516.217.417.5
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 19.118.418.619.920.7

Source: World Bank, Latest data available.

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20232024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) -
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change)

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook, Latest data available.

Note: (e) Estimated Data


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
United States 14.8%
Hong Kong SAR, China 8.1%
Japan 4.7%
South Korea 4.4%
Vietnam 4.1%
See More Countries 63.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
United States 6.5%
South Korea 6.3%
Japan 6.3%
Australia 6.1%
Russia 5.1%
See More Countries 69.8%

Source: UN Comtrade Database, Latest data available.


Main Products

3,379.8 bn USD of products exported in 2023
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 7.6%
Automatic data-processing machines and units...Automatic data-processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 4.4%
Electronic integrated circuits; parts thereofElectronic integrated circuits; parts thereof 4.0%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 2.3%
Electric accumulators, incl. separators therefor,...Electric accumulators, incl. separators therefor, whether or not square or rectangular; parts thereof (excl. spent and those of unhardened rubber or textiles) 2.1%
See More Products 79.6%
2,556.8 bn USD of products imported in 2023
Electronic integrated circuits; parts thereofElectronic integrated circuits; parts thereof 13.7%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 13.2%
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 5.3%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 3.6%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 3.3%
See More Products 60.9%

Source: UN Comtrade Database, Latest data available.


To go further, check out our service Import/Export flows.


Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest data available.


Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
Chinese Yuan (Renminbi) (CNY)
Exchange Rate Regime
Managed floating exchange rate regime, allowing Central Bank interventions.
Level of Currency Instability
Significant risks of instability. Volatility may increase with China’s economic slowdown, a change in U.S. monetary policy or international pressures on the Government for a revaluation of the currency.
Exchange Rate on :

Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Chinese Yuan (Renminbi) (CNY) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 THB

Source: World Bank, Latest data available.


Find out all the exchange rates daily on our service Currency Converter.

Return to top

Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
International Economic Cooperation
China is a member of the following international economic organisations: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (dialogue partner of ASEAN Plus Three), G-20, G-24 (observer), G-5, G-77, IMF, Pacific Alliance (observer), WTO, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates China click here. International organisation membership of China is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
China is a member of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) signed on 15 November 2020. The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by China can be consulted here.
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Party of the TIR Convention

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
Goods dispatched in China must be accompanied by the following documents:
- Certificates of origin
- The unique data folder (DAU)
- Commercial invoice (in 3 copies and in English.
- Sale contract in three copies
- A certificate of plant health (for food and agricultural products
- A health certificate (for meat
- A certificate indicating fit for human consumption
- A certificate of fumigation (for the wooden pallets).
- Certificate of Community origin (for imports coming from the EU.)
- Certificate of free sale for cosmetics.
- Transport documents and packing lists.
- Translation of the components/ingredients in Chinese.

To go further, check out our service Shipping documents.

Free-trade zones
China counts 21 Free-Trade Zones (FTZ). The first designated Free-Trade Zones opened in Shanghai in 2013, followed by Guangdong, Tianjin and Fujian in 2015. The up-to-date full list of Chinese Free Trade Zones, including China’s six new Free Trade Zones established in 2019 (Jiangsu, Shandong, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Guanxi, and Yunnan), can be consulted here.
For Further Information
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Non Tariff Barriers
Only companies or institutions authorised by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation (MOFTEC) can run foreign trade operations. Two methods are possible: Foreign Trade Companies or producing companies entitled to trade with foreigners (import for their personal use provided they have stable export balances). While only 14 companies were authorised to engage in foreign trade operations in China in 1979, there are nearly 9,000 companies authorised today.

More than half of value imports to China are subject to import licenses. Initial authorisation is issued by various organisations (according to the product), but the final delivery is subject to acceptance by the MOFTEC. To obtain these authorisations, the importer must have exact foreign exchange reserves and justify the necessity to import. Delivery of licenses often depends on the sphere of activity, which may be encouraged, allowed, restricted or simply prohibited, according to the investments regulation promulgated by China. In any case, it is imperative to have solid relations within the Chinese Administration for obtaining these licenses.

Many goods imported into China are subject to inspection. In order to ensure conformity with Chinese customs standards, certain products- textiles, in particular- are subject to inspection prior to arrival in China. Other products can undergo inspection at the port of entry.

Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
Paper, products containing metals (steel, iron, tin, etc), integrated circuits, automobile parts, intellectual property, etc.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
Pages of WTO dedicated to China
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the United States
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the EU
Sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, inventoried by the EU

Return to top



Integration in the International Standards Network
Member of:
- The International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) and of the International Electronic Commission (IEC)
- The APEC/SCSC, Sub-committee of Standards and Conformity of the Organisation of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
- The ASEM/TFAP/SCA, Plan and Standards of action for facilitation of commercial exchanges and evaluation of conformity of the Asia-Europe Dialogue (ASEM)
- The Congress of Standards for the Pacific Zone (PASC)
Obligation to Use Standards
Standards in China fall into at least one of four broad categories: national standards, industry standards, local or regional standards, and enterprise standards for individual companies. National standards can be either mandatory (technical regulations, protection of public health, private property and safety) or voluntary, and take precedence over all other types of standards. Laws and regulations can reference voluntary standards, thereby making the voluntary standard, in effect, mandatory. For certain products, China requires that a safety and quality certification mark (CCC) be obtained. Numerous government agencies in China mandate industry-specific standards or testing requirements for products under their jurisdiction in addition to the GB standards and the CCC mark.
Classification of Standards
List of Chinese Codes and Standards.
Assessment of the System of Standardization
Respect of standards is important for the Chinese.
Online Consultation of Standards
Publications relating to the Chinese standards of the SAC.
Certification Organisations
CCC Chinese Obligatory Certification
Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) Administration of Certification and Accreditation of China

Return to top

Any Comment About This Content? Report It to Us.


© eexpand, All Rights Reserved.
Latest Update: July 2024