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China’s Trade Performance and Trends in 2023

China’s overall trade value in the first ten months of 2023 witnessed a marginal growth of 0.03% from the previous year, reaching 34.32 trillion yuan. Exports saw a modest increase of 0.4%, amounting to 19.55 trillion yuan, while imports declined by 0.5%, totaling 14.77 trillion yuan.

The trade surplus expanded by 3.2%, hitting 4.78 trillion yuan. In October alone, trade activities rose by 0.9% compared to the previous year, with exports declining by 3.1% and imports growing by 6.4%. The rise in general trade, now representing 64.9% of China’s foreign trade, is significant, especially with private enterprises showing a 6.2% increase in their trade activities, forming 53.1% of China’s total foreign trade.

Shenzhen Port

Container Shipping Industry’s Current Landscape

The container shipping industry is experiencing potentially its most challenging period, with predictions suggesting a downturn until 2026. This downturn is attributed to the introduction of many new, larger-capacity container ships, which have dramatically influenced trade flows and freight rates. Approximately 30% of the current fleet’s capacity consists of these larger vessels, reshaping the dynamics of shipping logistics. The industry is also adapting to stringent climate regulations, including integrating ships with alternative fuel options, indicating a strategic shift to evolving environmental and market conditions. This scenario is further complicated by declining freight markets, as evidenced by significant profit reductions reported by major shipping companies.

Global E-commerce Dynamics and Logistics Challenges

On November 7, over a thousand workers at an Amazon facility in Coventry, England, initiated a strike, part of an ongoing labor dispute. Additional strikes are planned for November 8, 9, and Black Friday, November 24. These actions could significantly impact Amazon’s logistics operations during the holiday season.

Concurrently, TikTok Shop in the U.K. has seen a surge in seller registrations, now exceeding 1.5 million. This includes family businesses and emerging side hustles, tapping into a vast European audience of 150 million TikTok users. This growth in TikTok Shop’s seller base in the U.K. reflects the growing importance of social media platforms in e-commerce, offering new opportunities for businesses to reach a broader market.


TikTok’s Impact on E-commerce Trends in the U.S.

Since its launch two months ago, TikTok’s U.S. Shop has seen remarkable growth, with its Gross Merchandise Value doubling to $61.2 million in the week of October 29. The number of sellers on TikTok Shop U.S. has increased to over 250,000, indicating a shift in the e-commerce landscape.

The platform’s growth underscores the importance of social media in driving consumer purchases and offers new avenues for businesses to reach diverse customer bases and adapt their strategies to digital era demands.

Digital Innovation in China’s Foreign Trade

The 134th Canton Fair recently concluded, indicating robust foreign trade in China despite global challenges. The fair witnessed record attendance and a significant increase in payments on the WorldFirst B2B platform, especially in certain sectors.

This trend shows a shift towards digital services in trade, with Chinese exports exhibiting growth in new markets and a diversified approach to foreign trade. Chinese exporters are adapting to global trade landscape changes, indicating a promising outlook for 2024.

Container Ship

Navigating the Challenges in Container Shipping

Container shipping is currently facing challenges due to liner carrier consolidation and shippers shifting towards non-vessel-operating common carriers for competitive rates.

These developments have emerged despite a downturn in ocean rates this year. Shipper associations are focusing on attracting members who prioritize long-term stability in shipping logistics.

Expansion in the US LTL Trucking Sector

U.S. less-than-truckload carriers are expanding their networks, highlighted by XPO’s new facility in Lakeland, Florida. This development is part of a broader strategy by LTL companies to meet current shipping demands and prepare for future capacity needs.

The new XPO service center, covering 32,000 square feet with 60 doors, is strategically located near Interstate 4, linking Florida’s Gulf Coast with Orlando and the East Coast, and is slated to open in spring 2024.

Port terminal

ONE Enhances Terminal Operations

Ocean Network Express (ONE) recently finalized its acquisition of substantial stakes in three major container terminals in the U.S. West Coast and Rotterdam. This includes a 51% stake in both TraPac LLC and Yusen Terminals LLC at the ports of Los Angeles and Oakland and a 20% stake in Rotterdam World Gateway at the Port of Rotterdam.

These strategic acquisitions, completed from Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha in December, are set to bolster ONE’s container handling capacities and stevedoring services.

Surge in U.S. Container Imports

Descartes Systems Group’s November Global Shipping Report reveals that U.S. container import volumes in October 2023 saw a significant increase of 4.7% from September, totaling 2,307,918 TEUs.

This rise not only exceeds last year’s figures by 3.9% but also surpasses pre-pandemic levels from October 2019 by 11.4%. Imports from China also showed growth, contributing 886,842 TEUs, despite being 11.6% lower than their peak in August 2022.

Canada Port

Declining Imports at Canadian Ports

Canada’s two Class I railroads have reported a notable decrease in US-bound cargo through the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert. This decline, highlighted during Canadian National Railway’s (C.N.) third-quarter earnings call on October 24, is attributed to summer dockworker strikes and a general slowdown in North American imports from Asia.

Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.) echoed similar concerns the following day, emphasizing challenges in freight volume.

U.S. Investment in Sri Lanka’s Port Development

The U.S. is committing $553 million to develop a container terminal in Sri Lanka, a move aimed at counterbalancing China’s influence in the region. This funding, provided by the International Development Finance Corp., will support a project in Colombo being developed by India’s Gautam Adani.

The investment is seen as a strategic effort by the U.S. and India to respond to Beijing’s influence in South Asia, especially after Sri Lanka’s heavy borrowing for Chinese-funded infrastructure projects.

Sri Lanka port
Greece port

Dominance in Global Shipping by Greek and Chinese Companies

Greek and Chinese shipping companies now own a significant portion of the global fleet’s cargo-carrying capacity, comprising one-third of the total, as reported by BIMCO. Greece remains the world’s leading shipping nation, controlling 19% of the total capacity, while China has risen to second place.

This growth in the Chinese fleet is partly attributed to the involvement of Chinese financial institutions in leasing, with five of the top 10 Chinese shipowners being leasing institutions.