Customs officials in Qingdao, Shandong province, check a freight train bound for Azerbaijan. [Photo by Xie Hao/For China Daily]

China will actively participate in the rule-and standard-setting process of multilateral, bilateral and regional trade and economic cooperation to inject vitality into the global economy this year, a top Customs official said.

Apart from supporting the development of the fast-growing freight train services between China and Europe and the new international land-sea trade corridor, the nation will speed up negotiations on the new strategic framework for China-EU Customs cooperation and China-EU sanitary and phytosanitary cooperation with the European Union, said Ni Yuefeng, minister of the General Administration of Customs.

The GAC will complete preparations for the implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement on time this year, he said at the administration’s annual work meeting held in Beijing late last week.

Together with China’s announcement of favorably considering joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, Ni said the GAC will prepare well for its part in future talks on the CPTPP.

With the previous document signed between China and the EU losing efficacy this year, experts said the new strategic framework for China-EU Customs cooperation will highlight the main objectives of mutual cooperation and assistance between the EU and China and sets out their priorities and objectives for Customs cooperation for the years ahead, after the two sides concluded talks on an investment deal in principle in December last year.

In the next step, the framework’s priority areas will be protecting citizens and combating illegal trade through effective Customs controls, while cutting administrative burden on legitimate trade, said Wei Xiaoquan, a researcher specializing in regional economic development at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

To mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and protectionism, the new framework will support supply chain security efforts and help reliable traders, the enforcement of intellectual property rights, and the fight against financial and environmental fraud, said Chai Yongzhi, a researcher at the Institute of Foreign Trade, a part of Beijing-based Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

“In addition to goods and commodity trade, Customs authorities from both sides will expand cooperation in fields like e-commerce and trade in services,” he said.

Ni, the minister of the GAC, said China has continued to streamline its Customs procedures, cutting the number of certificates required for Customs clearance to 41 this year from 86 in 2018. Most of them can be applied for online.

The GAC waived up to 15 billion yuan ($2.32 billion) of port construction fees and 960 million yuan of port dues on cargo and security fees for port facilities last year, he said, adding the government has rolled out a series of policies including those that streamline Customs procedures and cut corporate costs. It also waived 268.77 billion yuan worth of taxes for foreign trade firms in 2020.

China has maintained its position as the world’s largest trading nation in goods during the past five years. The country’s foreign trade value rose 17.2 percent to reach 146.37 trillion yuan during its 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20). It emerged from global economic and trade challenges last year as the world’s only major economy to have registered positive growth in foreign trade in goods, according to the latest trade data released by the GAC.

To support the demand for large-volume shipments during the Spring Festival peak season, Hangzhou Customs in Zhejiang province has strengthened coordination with airport supervision and operation sites in advance, set up special storage areas and warehouse entry channels for cross-border e-commerce goods, and timely mastered logistics status by connecting with airlines and logistics enterprises ahead of schedule, said Wang Wei, head of Hangzhou Customs.