China wants to import more consumer goods as virus dents business

China's commerce ministry called for 'normal trade' as companies restart operations while the virus spreads.

    Although several companies reopened on Monday after an extended Lunar New Year, many more are delaying operations as the coronavirus outbreak claims more lives [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]
    Although several companies reopened on Monday after an extended Lunar New Year, many more are delaying operations as the coronavirus outbreak claims more lives [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

    China will increase imports of meat and other goods to address shortages, an official at its commerce ministry said on Monday, amid a coronavirus outbreak that has disrupted the country's economy.

    Zhu Xiaoliang, director-general of the ministry's market system development, made the comments during an online briefing.

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    The ministry also said on Monday that there is no reason to adopt interventionist policies on international trade due to the outbreak.

    The ministry is closely monitoring the impact of the outbreak on foreign trade and hopes other countries will cooperate and provide favourable conditions for normal trade, it said.

    Workers began trickling back to offices and factories around China on Monday as the government eased some restrictions on working and travelling during the virus outbreak.

    More than 900 people have died due to the virus, with most of the deaths occurring in China.

    The death toll of 97 on Sunday was the largest in a single day since the outbreak was detected in December.

    A team of experts headed by the World Health Organization (WHO) was in Beijing on Monday to help assess the latest outbreak.

    Authorities had told businesses to add up to 10 extra days onto Lunar New Year holidays that had been due to finish at the end of January.

    Even on Monday, a large number of workplaces remained closed and many people worked from home.

    Few commuters, all wearing masks, were seen during the morning rush-hour on one of Beijing's busiest subway lines.

    Companies try to resume work

    The extended closure of factories in the world's second-largest economy has raised concerns about disruptions cascading through global supply chains.

    China's central bank has taken a series of steps to support the economy, including reducing interest rates and flushing the market with liquidity. From Monday, it will provide special funds for banks to relend to businesses combating the virus.

    Taiwanese chipmaker Foxconn has received Chinese government approval to resume production at a key plant in the northern Chinese city of Zhengzhou, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters on Monday. But the southern city of Shenzhen rejected a company request to resume work at a plant there.

    Tesla, Daimler and Ford Motor Company are among carmakers that have said that they will restart production at their factories on Monday. Gaming giant Tencent Holdings said it had asked staff to continue working from home until February 21.

    United States carmaker General Motors said it would restart production in China from February 15, with a staggered restart across plants with local partners over the next two weeks, a company spokeswoman told Reuters.

    Samsung Electronics resumed production at its home appliances factory in China on Monday, while it continues to run its chip factory there, a spokeswoman said. It extended the suspension of work at a television factory to February 17.

    South Korean carmaker Hyundai said its suppliers in China resumed production but volume was negligible. Kia Motors is suspending production at all three Korean plants due to a shortage of parts, although one of them will resume production on Tuesday.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency