Cross-border e-commerce is booming in China. At this week’s first international conference on cross-border e-commerce in Beijing, Yu Guangzhou, head of the General Administration of Customs for China, announced a staggering 80.6 percent year-on-year growth, reaching 90.24 billion yuan in 2017. The average growth rate for the past three years has been around 50 percent.
Roughly 2,000 people from 125 countries attended the conference to discuss regulations and policies related to the cross-border e-commerce industry, an international market disruption creating huge opportunities for both countries and SMEs. Zhao Ruxia, the Director of the International Department of the General Administration of Customs, announced that the conference would take place every two years to establish customs cooperation among international entities facilitating cross-border.
The inequality between the goods exported by China and those imported remains. Yu reported that Chinese e-commerce exports rose 41.3 percent to 33.65 billion yuan in 2017, while imports jumped 116.4 percent to 56.59 billion yuan.
As a new industry, cross-border e-commerce presents a novel set of problems to the entities that facilitate trade. Compared with traditional trade, the characteristics of cross-border deals are small, frequent, happen at irregular intervals. Zhao reported that China is actively pursuing the development of international regulations, beginning with a new framework to establish cross-border electronics supplier standards. The framework is created in association with the World Customs Organization.
The World Customs Organization set up an international e-commerce working group in 2016 to define cross-border e-commerce and identify characteristics of this type of trade. The organization tackles issues relating to trade facilitation and security, the collection of duties and taxes, and criminal exploitation of the industry.
Additional figures were shared at the event to demonstrate the burgeoning scale of the cross-border industry. On China’s shopping holiday, Singles Day, Chinese Customs processed 16.2 million orders at a rate of 187 orders per second. Overall, Chinese Customs greeted many logistics vessels, processing 660 million manifests (cargo documents) for e-commerce shipments in 2017. The Ministry of Commerce announced that 220 countries and regions in the world had been covered by the Chinese cross-border e-commerce network in 2016.
Yu said the Chinese customs authorities will continue to promote cross-border e-commerce and improve services to meet the growing demands of Chinese buyers to buy foreign products online. Beijing’s discussion with the WTO to establish a cross-border e-commerce framework will also touch upon trade convenience and security, taxation, statistics, and capacity building. The framework will be the world’s first guidance document on customs control for cross-border e-commerce, she said.