China has taken solid steps in lowering import tariffs, sending out a strong signal to keep its promises of further opening-up.
From May 1 this year, China had exempted import tariffs on all common drugs including cancer drugs, cancer alkaloid-based drugs, and imported traditional Chinese medicine.
It was part of a slew of substantial measures recently announced, as the country promised to significantly broaden market access.
The measures include easing foreign equity restrictions in the automobile, ship and aircraft industries, significantly lowering import tariffs for automobiles and reducing import tariffs on other specified products. A timetable for further opening the financial sector was also disclosed by central bank governor Yi Gang during the Boao Forum for Asia annual conference in Hainan Province in April.
In 2017, China reduced import tariffs on 187 types of consumer goods, including coffee makers, smart toilet seat covers, electric toothbrushes, mineral water and oral cleaning kits.
In 2016 and 2015, import tariffs on 787 and 749 types of goods were reduced, respectively.
"It is an inexorable trend of China to enlarge imports to meet consumption and industrial upgrading during the country's economic restructuring process," Zhang Jun, economist with Morgan Stanley Huaxin Securities.
"To expand imports and promote trade balance, concerted efforts are needed from both China and exporting countries, given some countries have laid barriers on their high-tech exports to China," Zhang said.
For China, "lowering import tariffs will undoubtedly help increasing imports," said Xu Hongcai, an economist with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.
Su Jian, an economist with Peking University, said reducing the import tariffs will lead to a significant increase in China's imports.
He also highlighted that China had vowed to "actively expand imports" in this year's central government work report.
"We will actively expand imports, host the first China International Import Expo, and lower import tariffs on automobiles, some everyday consumer goods, and so on. We will open our market wider to promote industry upgrading and more balanced development of trade to provide Chinese consumers with a broader range of choices," said Premier Li Keqiang in the annual government work report.