China cuts customs fees to boost trade
Levies for supervision, inspection and quarantine to be shelved from Monday as European crisis takes a bite out of demand
The mainland will cancel or suspend customs administrative fees from next month in an effort to stabilise trade, which has been hit hard by the European debt crisis and the slowdown in domestic economic growth.
The measures are part of the plans outlined by the State Council this month to support trade.
Other new steps the cabinet has pledged to roll out include expanding tax rebates for exporters, cutting financing costs for companies and widening the coverage of export insurance.
Starting Monday, all customs supervision fees would be removed, a statement posted yesterday on the Ministry of Finance website said.
In addition, inspection and quarantine fees for goods shipped across the border and the vehicles carrying them would be suspended in the fourth quarter, the statement, issued jointly by the ministry, the customs bureau and other agencies, said.
Stanley Lau Chin-ho, deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said: "We generally welcome the new measures, as they will help trading firms cut costs. But weak demand remains the biggest challenge."
Mainland exports rose only 2.7 per cent last month, after surging 24.5 per cent in the same month a year earlier, as demand from the West cooled amid the European debt crisis.
Imports unexpectedly fell 2.6 per cent.
The customs bureau charges supervision fees ranging from 0.15 per cent to 0.3 per cent of the import value of goods, based on the CIF price, which includes freight and insurance costs.
Inspection and quarantine fees range from 0.067 per cent to 0.15 per cent of the goods' value. Fees vary by type of cargo vessel.
Removal of the customs fees would save exporters and importers 3.5 billion yuan (HK$4.3 billion), the Securities Times said, citing estimates by an unnamed official at the ministry.
Xu Wenbin, chairman of Shijiazhuang Artweaver, a carpet exporter that mainly targets the European market, said the removal of the customs fees should be a long-term policy rather than just a temporary move.
He said his company exported a small amount of goods recently, with a total value of US$1,682, to Japan in a container together with other trading firms but had to pay 1,400 yuan worth of inspection fees.
"We suffered losses because of the high fees," he said.
Xu also called on the government to step up increases in exporters' tax rebates.
"So far, we haven't seen this happening," he said.
The firm's exports dropped 15 per cent in the first half from a year earlier, Xu said.
Industrial Bank chief economist Lu Zhengwei said Beijing ought to consider allowing the yuan to depreciate more against the US dollar. Lu said that compared with currencies in other emerging markets, such as Brazil, the yuan's strength had harmed the competitiveness of Chinese exporters.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang warned this month that external demand might cool further, making it more difficult for Beijing to meet its goal of expanding imports and exports by 10 per cent this year.