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ASEAN becomes China’s largest trading partner

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has replaced the EU to emerge as China's largest trading partner in the first two months this year, customs data showed, as many Southeast Asian countries presented an unbreakable supply chain with China to secure trade despite external shockwaves like the coronavirus, experts noted. 

Trade between China and ASEAN economies rose by 0.5 percent year-on-year to $85.32 billion in January and February, against a backdrop of falling trade with most other trading members as a result of the coronavirus assault. Overall, China's overseas trade slipped by 11 percent to $591.99 billion in the first two months of 2020.

During this period, China's US dollar-denominated exports to ASEAN economies slipped by 5.1 percent on a yearly basis, but imports soared by 7.2 percent, according to the customs data. 

In particular, China's imports from Vietnam recorded an astonishing surge of 24.2 percent, besides imports from Indonesia also rose by 13 percent year-on-year. 

By the end of 2019, ASEAN was China's second-largest trading partner accounting for more than $641 billion trade during the year, while the EU stood as the largest trading partner. 

Xu Liping, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said a lot of Chinese and multinational companies' upstream businesses have shifted to ASEAN economies, where products are manufactured and then exported to China for further packaging, which might have spurred import growth from ASEAN members to China. 

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