China’s trade outlook to decline as air trade drags

China’s trade outlook to decline as air trade drags
  • Stable outlook for ocean trade to offset fall in air trade, diminishing overall trade outlook decline to index value of 45
  • Air imports momentum allude to shift in focus to strengthen productivity and competitiveness in its domestic economy
  • DHL Global Trade Barometer forecasts a mild decline in world trade, with most country indexes revealing a downward trend

SHANGHAI, CHINA – Media OutReach – 10 October 2019 – China’s September trade outlook registered a four-point decline from June to an index value of 45, according to data from the DHL Global Trade Barometer released by DHL, the world’s leading logistics company. Mainly driven by a significant eight-point fall in overall air trade, the bright spots of growth in air imports appear set to carry the fall in exports.

The DHL Global Trade Barometer, an early indicator of global trade developments calculated using artificial intelligence and big data analytics, suggests that China’s air imports of Basic Raw Materials, Machinery Parts, Chemicals & Products, and Temperature or Climate Controlled Goods will be the biggest near-term contributor to trade growth although challenges faced by air exports will negate that growth. September 2019’s ocean trade outlook remains unchanged from June’s index value of 47.

“Whilst this quarter’s index indicates a continued deceleration in China’s trade growth, it equally reveals an interesting shift toward new opportunities to further strengthen the country’s economy,” said Steve Huang, CEO, DHL Global Forwarding Greater China. “The increase in air imports of raw materials and machinery parts are in line with recent plans to move from high-speed to high-quality growth, concentrating on the adoption of artificial intelligence, smart manufacturing and renewable energy to establish country-wide infrastructure projects. With borrowing costs lowered to 4.2% to shore up economic growth, the country’s trade continues to maintain momentum as the government and businesses focus on boosting their economic activity, productivity and competitiveness.”

Forecast for China consistent with stagnating world trade outlook

The Barometer’s results also suggest that world trade remains at a crossroads and will further lose momentum over the next two months, albeit at a slower pace compared to the previous quarter. The current decline is triggered solely by a drop in air trade, with global ocean trade outlook remaining stable. All seven nations surveyed reveal indexes below 50 points except for Japan and the UK, where the Barometer forecasts a positive growth momentum for the two economies at 53 points each. In the Global Trade Barometer methodology, an index value above 50 indicates positive growth, while values below 50 indicate contraction.

“Worldwide, trade conflicts continue to smoulder and geopolitical tensions are causing uncertainty. Against this backdrop, global trade continues to develop surprisingly well. Although the DHL Global Trade Barometer has further decreased — with an index value of 47 points –world trade is still closer to staying at its high level,” Tim Scharwath, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding, Freight, said. “This strengthens our conviction that globalization will go on and that logistics will remain its key enabler in the future.”

Impact of US-Chinese tensions reflected in their own results

The trade conflict between China and the US continues to simmer, resulting in an overall subdued trade mood, with US and China accounting for the most negative trade outlooks in September. It is expected that US trade will shrink further, remaining in negative territory with 45 points, despite having climbed one point since June.

About the Global Trade Barometer

Launched in January 2018, the DHL Global Trade Barometer is an innovative and unique early indicator for the current state and future development of global trade. It is based on large amounts of logistics data that are evaluated with the help of artificial intelligence.

The indicator is published four times a year and the next release date is scheduled for November 2019. For more information on the DHL Global Trade Barometer, please visit:


Note to editors:

Trade tensions between the US and China has caused many repercussions. Find out which sectors in China have been affected and what the trade dispute means for large companies operating in China.

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