Chinese products can still be imported amid coronavirus fears: Customs authority
Customs authorities in the US, Europe and Middle East continue to allow the import of Chinese goods in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.
There is currently “no problem” importing Chinese goods, the Dubai Customs Authority told Al Arabiya English when asked.
“Given the custom inspections conducted by both export and import countries, there is no scientific evidence so far that indicates products imported from China could carry the new coronavirus. It’s believed that Chinese products are safe for use,” Feng Kai, spokesperson for the Embassy of China in Saudi Arabia, told Al Arabiya English.
News of the virus has gripped the world with 冠状病毒, which translates to “coronavirus,” trending on the Chinese version of Twitter, Weibo.
In Western social media, some users have called for a boycott over Chinese goods as consumers fear that the virus could be transmitted via contact with products imported from the Asian giant.
Translated: Chinese products must be boycotted, at least for the time being, but will merchants do this?
Chinese President Xi Jinping called the coronavirus outbreak a grave situation on Sunday, and authorities have since restricted travel within and from the country.
Ma Xiaowei, the head of China’s health ministry, said that the country is now in a “crucial stage” as it attempts to contain the spread of the disease.
“Our priority at the moment is to prevent the spread of the epidemic… Our government and people are confident and capable to defeat the epidemic at a lower cost,” added Feng.
US, Europe uncertain on Chinese imports
Although US authorities have not banned Chinese imports, airlines have halted passenger and cargo shipments, exacerbating the problems caused by the ongoing US-China trade war. US airlines that have cancelled flights include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and United Parcel Services (UPS).
Similar issues are also plaguing the European market, with shipments likely to be delayed from the China. There has been no official announcement as to whether current imports are less safe due to the coronavirus. European airlines that have announced cancelled flights include Air France, British Airways, and Lufthansa.
The UK arm of delivery firm UPS told Free Radio News on February 9, 2020, that it is experiencing some disruption to its services due to the coronavirus epidemic, one example of a disrupted supply chain at play.
Watch the spread of the coronavirus around the world
Markets react to coronavirus
The impact of coronavirus fears on Middle Eastern markets has been severe. The Saudi Stock Exchange’s (Tadawul) headline index the TASI ended trading Monday down 1.78 percent, while Dubai’s main index fell 1.16 percent. Other regional markets followed the trend, with Kuwait’s market down 0.97 percent, and the Bahraini market down 0.13 percent.
The coronavirus epidemic comes at a delicate time for China’s economy. Chinese and US authorities signed a trade deal on January 16, 2020, to end the ongoing trade war which has frustrated global growth ambitions for the last year.
The US Trump administration has pursued an aggressive trade policy against China as it seeks to readdress the global trade situation. China is a major global exporter, but with airlines already cancelling trips to and from the country, the coronavirus epidemic could hit the crucial flow of goods and trade.
Regional officials have urged for calm. On Monday, the UAE Minister of Energy Suhail al-Mazroui on Monday urged markets to not overreact to the possible impact of the coronavirus on oil demand.
In his statement, al-Mazroui added that he is confident in the ability of China and the international community to bring the outbreak under control.
The Saudi Ministry of Health said on Sunday that there have been no recorded cases of the virus in the Kingdom. “The staff at the [airport] clinics are inspecting all passengers arriving from China and measuring their vitals,” the Kingdom's Minister of Health Tawfiq al-Rabiah said in a statement.
Coronavirus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed more than 81 people and infected 2,000 others.
The outbreak is believed to be the result of the consumption of a pathogen usually found in wild animals. Exotic animals are commonly found in markets in China, where their meat is sold for food or traditional medicines.
The lethal virus has spread to countries outside of China, including the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, Vietnam, and France.