BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) -- China's commerce ministry said Thursday that the country will move to stabilize its foreign trade amid growing external uncertainty as the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreads increasingly worldwide.
"In the short run, the impact (of the COVID-19) on global economy and supply chains is inevitable, and the international economic and trade growth will be pressured, which will affect the business resumption of China's foreign trade firms and their ability to secure new orders," Li Xingqian, director of foreign trade department under the Ministry of Commerce, told an online news briefing.
This came as the World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 outbreak can be characterized as a "pandemic" with the virus now spreading to 114 countries and regions.
China will work to intensify global cooperation to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, and minimize its impact on both China's foreign trade and the global trade growth, Li said.
The country will further improve its export tax rebate policies, increase foreign trade loans and encourage insurance companies to offer short-term export credit insurance services while lowering the premium rates, Li said.
He said the recovery of China's business operations is accelerating, but the external uncertainty is growing as the downward pressure on global economic and trade development is increasing.
The COVID-19 outbreak and extended Lunar New Year holidays have disrupted China's business operations, supply chains and economic activities, leading to a slump in demand, with the country's imports and exports down 11 percent year on year in first two months of the year.
However, Li said bright spots are emerging as foreign trade companies strive to innovate and explore diversified markets.
Supported by the government's policies, nearly all major foreign trade firms in 19 provincial regions, including Zhejiang, Jiangsu provinces and Shanghai, have resumed production, according to Li.
He said incentives would also be made to accelerate free trade agreement negotiations, encourage companies to increase imports of raw materials and other goods, and further cut red tape to facilitate trade growth.