BEIJING - China’s foreign trade rose 9.7 percent year on year to a historic high of 30.51 trillion yuan (about 4.5 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2018, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said Monday.

The value was 2.7 trillion yuan higher than that of 2017, according to the GAC. “China effectively tackled changes of the external environment last year, and the foreign trade maintained stable and positive growth, reaching a historic high in import and export volume,” GAC spokesman Li Kuiwen told a press conference.

Exports rose 7.1 percent year on year to 16.42 trillion yuan last year, while imports grew 12.9 percent to 14.09 trillion yuan, resulting in a trade surplus of 2.33 trillion yuan, which narrowed by 18.3 percent. Exports and imports of products under the general trade category surged 12.5 percent year on year to 17.64 trillion yuan, accounting for 57.8 percent of the total foreign trade, 1.4 percentage points higher than 2017. China’s trade with the European Union, the United States and the ASEAN countries increased 7.9 percent, 5.7 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively, with their combined trade volume accounting for 41.2 percent of China’s total foreign trade.

Trade with countries along the Belt and Road registered faster-than-average growth, with the trade volume standing at 8.37 trillion yuan, up 13.3 percent year on year.

“Trade cooperation with Belt and Road countries has become new driving force of China’s foreign trade development,” said Li.

Private enterprises played a bigger role, accounting for 39.7 percent of the total foreign trade, up 1.1 percentage points compared with 2017.

“Private enterprises contributed more than half to China’s foreign trade growth in 2018, a bright spot of China’s foreign trade development,” said the spokesman.