Image by thewamphyri via FlickrAt present, unbalanced, inconsistent and unsustainable development factors persist in China's foreign trade. They are manifested in the following ways: Export growth mainly relies on the input and consumption of resources, energy, land, manpower, environment, etc, while the input of science and technology, management, innovation and other factors are insufficient, resulting in an ever more conspicuous contradiction between foreign trade development and the constraint on resource supply and environmental carrying capacity;
enterprises are not competitive enough in R&D,
design, marketing and services, and products with their own intellectual property rights and with their own brands account for only a small proportion of the exports; the contribution of foreign trade to China's primary, secondary and tertiary industries is unbalanced; central and western China falls behind other regions in the scale and level of foreign trade; and foreign trade needs improvement in terms of the quality of its products and profits. The Chinese government is clearly aware of these problems and has taken active measures to accelerate the change of the development pattern of foreign trade, and achieve sustainable development.
Fostering comprehensive competitive edge of foreign trade development.
In recent years, with the rising labor cost and spiraling prices of resources, energy and other production factors, the low-cost advantage of export-oriented industries has been greatly weakened. In the face of these new conditions, the Chinese government has set the strategic goal of turning the mode of foreign trade from extensive to intensive development. During the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010) the Chinese government adjusted import and export taxation policies and implemented the strategies of fostering foreign trade by science and technology, market diversification and putting quality first. It launched pilot projects for transforming and upgrading processing trade, improved financial and insurance services for import and export enterprises, and encouraged enterprises to accelerate technical progress and optimize product structure. With these measures, China enhanced the comprehensive competitiveness of its foreign trade. Most import and export enterprises withstood challenges of the international financial crisis, and China's foreign trade recovered soon after the crisis. During the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) China will make efforts to maintain its current competitive edge in exports, foster new advantages centering on technology, branding, quality and services at a faster pace, promote industrial transformation and upgrading, extend the value-added chain of processing trade, and the competitiveness and added value of enterprises and products. It will vigorously develop trade in services to promote balanced development between it and trade in goods. It will open the services trade wider to the outside world, promote service outsourcing, and try to expand the export of new services. It will improve and implement state policies in the fields of finance and taxation, banking and insurance, foreign currency management, customs clearance, inspection and quarantine, and logistics and transportation, in a bid to speed up trade and investment facilitation for the stable and healthy development of foreign trade.
Promoting energy conservation and emission reduction in foreign trade development
As early as in 1994, the Chinese government published China's Agenda 21 - White Paper on China's Population, Environment and Development in the 21st Century, setting goals on energy conservation and emission reduction for national economic and social development. In both the 11th and 12th five-year plans, the government made the reduction of energy consumption and CO2 emission intensity two obligatory targets. Since 2004 the Chinese government has lowered and even abolished export tax rebates for some energy-intensive, heavily-polluting and resource-based products, banned or limited the processing trade in some such products, and encouraged import and export enterprises to keep up with the world's advanced environmental standards. As a result, in recent years such products have seen their proportion in exports decreasing, while the export of new-energy, energy-conserving and environmental-friendly products has grown by a big margin. Most import and export enterprises above a designated scale have obtained ISO14000 certification or other environmental standard certifications. China will try to readjust its economic and industrial structure, accelerate the application of advanced energy-conserving and environmental technologies, and promote more balanced development between foreign trade and resource conservation and environmental protection.
Strengthening trade-related intellectual property protection
Strengthening intellectual property protection is necessary for China to comply with its international obligations. It is also an essential move if China seeks to transform its economic growth mode and build an innovative country. The Chinese government has made tremendous efforts in this regard, and made significant progress in legislation, law enforcement, publicity, training and enhancing the social awareness of IPR protection. In 2008 China promulgated the Outline of the National Intellectual Property Strategy, making IPR protection a national strategy. From 2006 to 2011, China published the Action Plan on Intellectual Property Protection for six consecutive years, putting in place over 1,000 concrete measures covering the fields of legislation, law enforcement, education and training, cultural communication and exchanges with the outside world. In 2010 China filed 12,295 applications for international patents in accordance with the Patent Cooperation Treaty, registering a growth rate of 55.6 percent over 2009, which was the fastest increase in the world. China also rose from the fifth to the fourth place in terms of patent application in the world. At present, it is a common challenge facing all countries to strengthen foreign trade-related intellectual property protection, and a world trend to strengthen dialogue and cooperation in this area. The Chinese government will, under related international conventions and within its own legislative framework, strengthen exchanges and cooperation with other countries and regions for the healthy development of intellectual property.
Enhancing the quality and safety requirements of export products
Generally speaking, the quality of China's export products is constantly improving, and they are becoming more and more popular among consumers around the world. In 2009 and 2010, 11.032 million batches and 13.054 million batches, respectively, of China's export products were examined by inspection and quarantine authorities, with only 0.15 percent and 0.14 percent being substandard; the export values totaled $429.27 billion and $552.18 billion, respectively, with 0.12 percent and 0.13 percent, respectively, found substandard. In 2010 China exported 127,000 batches of food to the United States, with 99.53 percent up to standard, and 138,000 batches to the European Union, with 99.78 percent up to standard. According to a report from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan on imported food, in 2010 tests on 20 percent of food imported from China found that 99.74 percent was up to standard, higher than that of food imported from the United States and European Union in the same period. However, a small number of Chinese enterprises still ignore product quality and safety to bring down cost, while some foreign importers turn a blind eye to quality and credibility, and try every means to bring down the price or even authorize Chinese producers to use substandard materials. All this harms the image of "made-in-China" products. To tackle these problems, in recent years, the Chinese government has improved laws and regulations on product quality and safety, strengthened supervision at every link, and strictly investigated and punished the few enterprises that had violated laws and regulations and caused quality problems. In March 2011, China launched the Year of Improving the Quality of Foreign Trade Products, through which it aimed to improve the mechanism of approval, certification and supervision of the quality and safety of foreign trade products, thereby enhancing the quality and safety of export products.
Raising import and export enterprises' sense of social responsibility
As China opens wider to the outside world, more and more enterprises have come to realize that along with development and expansion they should shoulder their corresponding social responsibilities. This can not only help promote social harmony and progress, but also enhance enterprises' competitiveness and capacity for sustainable development. Advocating the Scientific Outlook on Development and the idea of a harmonious society, Chinese governments at all levels encourage enterprises to enhance their sense of social responsibility, respect labor rights, safeguard consumers' rights and protect the ecological environment. In the meantime, the Chinese government encourages enterprises to accept relevant social responsibilities in the field of foreign trade and try to get necessary certifications. Since the new Law on Labor Contracts and its implementation regulations took effect in 2008, import and export enterprises have established the system of "five insurances" (old-age insurance, medical insurance, unemployment insurance, work injury insurance and maternity insurance), as well as a housing fund. The Chinese government regards it as an important task in the course of promoting foreign trade transformation and upgrading to enhance enterprises' sense of social responsibility. It is therefore determined to strengthen publicity and training in this regard, establish and improve a management system marked by integrity for import and export enterprises, improve public supervision on enterprises to make sure they fulfill their social responsibilities, carry out international cooperation in fostering and managing enterprises' sense of social responsibility, and call on import and export enterprises to constantly enhance their performance in this regard.
Promoting international cooperation in emerging industries of strategic importance
To develop new strategic industries is of great significance for China to realize foreign trade transformation and upgrading, and sustainable development. After over 30 years of reform and opening up, China has seen its overall strength grow remarkably, its science and technology advancing and its industrial system improving markedly, laying a solid foundation for the development of emerging industries of strategic importance. However, compared to developed countries, these industries in China are still in their infancy. In the wake of the 2008 international financial crisis, all the world's major economies have been developing emerging industries at a faster pace, and China has taken the development of these industries as an important task in the course of its industrial rejuvenation. To promote the priority areas, while giving play to the basic role of the market in allocating resources, the Chinese government has strengthened its policy guidance, regulated market order, improved its investment environment and encouraged enterprises to enhance their technological innovation capabilities. This basic policy of supporting emerging industries of strategic importance conforms to international trade rules. China is willing to strengthen communication with other countries in scientific research, technological development and capacity building, and work with them to create a new situation for international cooperation and development in emerging industries.