China's commerce ministry says exports and imports will fall sharply in January and February as the coronavirus outbreak severely disrupts activity in the world's second-largest economy.
"The outbreak has posed severe challenges to China's current foreign trade development," Li Xingqian, director of the ministry's foreign trade department told a news conference.
"We expect January-February import and export growth to decline sharply," he said, citing delays in business reopenings and logistics issues in addition to seasonal holiday factors.
With transport restrictions still in place in many parts of the country to contain the spread of the virus, many companies are struggling to resume production due to a shortage of workers and raw materials.
Others can't get their finished products out. Parts shortages are starting to cascade through supply chains worldwide.
China is the world's largest exporter of goods, and shipments account for nearly 20 per cent of it's gross domestic product (GDP).
Analysts forecast the supply and demand shocks from the crisis could cut first-quarter GDP growth by up to half from 6 per cent in the previous quarter.
The outbreak has also brought considerable pressure on the country's services trade, especially in the tourism and transport sectors, said Xian Guoyi, director of the ministry's department of trade in services and commercial services.
To cushion the impact on companies, the ministry is speeding up a study of new fiscal, tax, financial, insurance measures to further support companies with other government entities, another official said.
The ministry expects foreign companies in most parts of the country to resume production by the end of February.
Australian Associated Press