India’s annual exports to China crossed the $20-billion mark for the first time in 2020 with shipments rising 16.15 per cent to $20.87 billion, per data collated from Indian and Chinese agencies.

Imports from China during the last calender year shrunk 10.87 per cent to $66.78 billion resulting in the narrowing of trade deficit by 19.39 per cent to $45.91 billion, according to the data. India-China bilateral trade during the year declined 5.64 per cent to $87.65 billion.

Top exports that witnessed a steep rise include primary commodities such as iron ore as well as metals and metal products including iron & steel, aluminium and copper.

Agriculture exports to the country witnessed an increase of 58.99 per cent to $199.14 million. This rise was led by cane sugar (387.5 per cent ), soyabean oil (3050 per cent), rice (184 per cent) and vegetables fats and oils (415 per cent). But exports of mangoes and fish oil fell to nil while tea exports declined 6.94 per cent and fresh grapes by 24.1 per cent.

Value-added exports

With only a small percentage of India’s exports to China comprising manufactured items, many experts are of the view that the country has to focus on value-added exports. China has imposed several non-tariff barriers for items such as pharmaceuticals so the country needs to work around these.

In 2020, a steep rise was witnessed in India’s exports of ores (75.35 per cent), iron and steel (336 per cent), aluminium (2023 per cent). With exports of iron and steel at $2.53 billion and aluminium and its articles at $640 million, India became the fourth and fifth largest exporter of the two commodities to China respectively.

The top imports from China that posted a decline are electrical machinery and equipment (-4.53 per cent), boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances (-7.68 per cent), plastics and related articles (-21.9 per cent), articles of iron and steel (-22.38 per cent), furniture (-14.73 per cent), fertilisers (-15.15 per cent), vehicle parts and accessories, including rolling stock (-7.62 per cent), toys and sports equipment (-4.44 per cent), iron and steel (-32.27 per cent), glass and glassware(-21.41 per cent), inorganic chemicals (-15.12 per cent), miscellaneous articles of base metals (-23.88 per cent) and ceramic products (-31.25 per cent).