BEIJING  - In the first nine months, combined exports and imports to China’s nine Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Chile and Pakistan, rose by 17 percent year on year, faster than its overall foreign trade growth of 7.7 per cent, according to a spokesman for the General Administration of Customs (GAC).

Trade with the nine FTA partners accounted for 13.9 per cent of the country’s total foreign trade volume, compared with 12.8 per cent in the same period last year, said GAC spokesman Zheng Yuesheng. China has diversified its trade relations and become less dependent on developed economies, he said.

From January to September, trade with the European Union, the United States and Japan accounted for 33.2 per cent of China’s total foreign trade volume during the period, down 2.6 percentage points from the same period last year,

Saturday’s customs data showed China’s exports fell unexpectedly by 0.3 per cent in September from a year earlier, ending two consecutive months of gains, while imports increased 7.4 per cent year on year.

Although challenged by a complicated global economic situation,Zheng said the country’s foreign trade was stabilizing with an improved structure.

In the first half of the year, China’s foreign trade dependence ratio, or the ratio of a given economy’s foreign trade volume to its GDP, fell 0.7 percentage points from a year ago to 50.4 per cent, reports Xinhua news agency.