HONG KONG, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong's goods exports posted lackluster performance in March as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact global trade, but a recovering Chinese mainland market offered the commercial and shipping hub a hope to revive in the rest of the year.
The total exports of Hong Kong declined 5.8 percent year-on-year last month, in sharp contrast with a 4.3-percent growth in February, with Western markets being a major drag, data from the statistics authority has shown.
Of all, the exports to Britain slumped 34.2 percent, followed by a 33.1-percent drop for Germany and a 29.3-percent decline for the United States.
"The spreading coronavirus in developed countries has dealt a major blow to global manufacturing chains and resulted in fast-shrinking global economic activities, which weighed on Hong Kong's foreign trade," Chairman and Chief Economist of the China Silk Road iValley Research Institute Liang Haiming said.
However, Hong Kong's exports to the mainland rose 8.4 percent from a year ago in March, the only bright spot in Hong Kong's trade figures.
Thanks to effective anti-epidemic measures, a large proportion of factories have resumed operation in the mainland and economic activities have started to recover in a steady manner. Despite dropping GDP in the first quarter, analysts pointed out that major economic indicators of the mainland including retail sales improved in March, serving as a significant stabilizer for Hong Kong's exports.
Imports and exports combined account for about 20 percent of Hong Kong's GDP and will play an important role in supporting the economy still suffering from the lingering epidemic and the aftermath of violent protests.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council predicted that the exports will go down 2 percent this year.
"Hong Kong's exports will likely slip 5 percent to 10 percent in the second quarter of the year and it is also hard to be optimistic about the full-year figure," Liang said, predicting that the demand from overseas markets will remain feeble this year.
Given sluggish foreign economies, the mainland market, absorbing more than half of Hong Kong's exports, is expected to become an even greater driver as consumption stifled during the epidemic will likely be unleashed in a fast and strong manner amid an economic rebound.
Chow Man-kong, deputy director of China Economic Research Program of Lingnan University, advised the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to work with industrial groups and organizations to promote Hong Kong products in the mainland and encourage Hong Kong businesses to enter the robust e-commerce sector there.
More efforts have to be made to change the conservative trade pattern and offset the losses in the first quarter, Chow said.
In the long run, the 1.4-billion-people enormous market in the mainland deserves more efforts from Hong Kong businesses, Liang said, citing great opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises to join the development of new infrastructure and tap the potential of new consumer demand.
"As long as Hong Kong businesses catch up the fast train, not only the exports will be revived but more jobs and broader development room will be created for Hong Kong young people," Liang said. Enditem