Chinese Premier Li Keqiang chaired a State Council executive meeting on Wednesday to promote cross-border e-commerce at a time when China's foreign trade continues to decline.
China's exports fell for a third month in May, while imports slumped to a three-month low, underscoring a sluggish domestic environment that casts doubts over the government's ability to hit its six percent trade growth target this year.
In May, China's total foreign trade slipped 9.7 percent from a year earlier to 1.97 trillion yuan (322 billion U.S. dollars). Exports declined 2.8 percent year on year, marking marginal improvement from the previous month but putting continued pressure on the economy, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday.
Cross-border e-commerce, which integrates the Internet with foreign trade, will help expand consumption, promote the upgrade of the export-oriented economy and create new economic growth, according to a statement released after the executive meeting.
"Cross-border e-commerce is a new breakthrough for the development of foreign trade," said Andrzej Junchniewicz, director of representative office in China, Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency.
"Foreign firms can sell their products directly to Chinese consumers more rapidly through online platforms, instead of going through traditional foreign trade routes," said Junchniewicz, who is attending the first China-CEEC(Central and Eastern European Countries) Investment and Trade Expo in the eastern city of Ningbo.
E-commerce is also a good channel to promote foreign brands that are not quite familiar with Chinese consumers, he told Xinhua.
Damir Karcas, who markets drinks and Swarovski crystal from Serbia, is attending the fair to promote Tiki cocktails, his country's top drink brand. He was on the hunt for a local partner during a match-making session between foreign traders and Chinese cross-border e-commerce operators on Wednesday night.
Taking the initiative, he approached Zuo Juncai, deputy general manager of Ningbo Zhengzheng E-commerce Co. Ltd, one of the largest cross-border e-commerce companies in China.
With 15 years of trade experience in China, Karcas knows well the Chinese people's appetite for shopping online. He hopes his drinks and crystal can hit the Chinese market as soon as possible.
"The quality can be guaranteed as supervision is strict and the price is appealing as zero taxes are charged for products imported through cross-border e-commerce," said Zuo, who is helping American farmers sell 120,000 bottles of cranberry juice during the "June 18" promotion at Tmall, an online shopping platform run by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.
Cross-border e-commerce has grown substantially after China established a pilot program offering preferential policies to businesses in five Chinese cities at the end of 2013. Among them was Ningbo, a coastal city in booming Zhejiang Province, whose trading volume through cross-border e-commerce reached more than 1 billion yuan in May.
More than 200,000 companies are running cross-border e-commerce businesses in China with more than 5,000 online shopping platforms. The trade volume through cross-border e-commerce reached 3.75 trillion yuan in 2014 and is expected to reach 6.5 trillion yuan in 2016, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Although the market is promising, bottlenecks for cross-border e-commerce still exist. More talent and capital are needed and customs efficiency should be improved, said Zuo.
China will optimize custom clearance processes, give tax reduction and exemption, encourage cross-border electronic payment to boost the development of cross-border e-commerce, according to the statement from the State Council executive meeting.
"The spring for the cross-border e-commerce is coming," said Zuo.