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Ningbo is a harbor city in Zhejiang province and one of China’s most prominent ports. The Ningbo-Zhoushan port is the fifth-largest in the world and the third-busiest in China after Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. It is bound by the East China Sea and Zhoushan Archipelago in the east, by Hangzhou Bay in the north, by Shaoxing in the west, and by Taizhou in the south. In 2007, the Hangzhou bay bridge was built, connecting Ningbo with its neighbors. Ningbo has established intermodal rail services that connect it to 13 inland ports. It also has the largest specialized dock for storing liquefied chemical products in China.

Ningbo serves as the economic center for the southern Yangtze River Delta and has been ranked among the most competitive cities in China. The municipal government of Ningbo encourages foreign investment and various multinational corporations (MNCs) have established operations in and around Ningbo. In 2013, Ningbo’s GDP reached US $108.3 billion (RMB 712.89 billion), up 8.1 percent year on year with an annual growth rate of 9.26 percent. Ningbo’s exports totaled US $65.7 billion while imports amounted to US $34.6 billion. The city ranked second in economic performance for Zhejiang province in 2014, trailing only Hangzhou

Ningbo has a sister city relationship with four cities in the U.S. – Wilmington, Delaware (1988), Houston, Texas (2000), Milwaukee, Wisconsin (2006) and Norfolk, Virginia (2013).

Key Industries

Industry dominates Ningbo’s economic activity, contributing to 52.5 percent of its GDP in 2013, while services accounted for 43.6 percent. The industrial sector also registered a growth rate of 8.4 percent year on year to reach a value-added output of US $51.3 billion (RMB 337.8 billion).

Pillar industries in Ningbo are wide-ranging and include textiles, auto parts, iron & steel, power generation, paper-making, plastics, petrochemicals, chemicals, electrical machinery, telecom equipment manufacturing, IT, and port-related industries. The city’s economic activity benefits immensely from its port. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, this port is one of China’s main entry ports for the import of raw materials such as coal, iron ore and petroleum.

Ningbo is also one of China’s oldest cities – its origins date back to the Hemudu culture in 4800 B.C. In 2013, its cultural and historical sites attracted 62.26 million domestic tourists and 1.27 million foreign tourists. This trend has continued to grow and the city received a total of 2.98 million tourists during the one-week Spring Festival holiday in 2015 alone, showing a 5.4 percent increase over the same period in 2014.

As per 2013-2014 estimates, Ningbo was among the fastest growing Chinese metropolitan economies, registering employment and GDP per capita growth rates above the rest of China.

Below are key sectors of interest to U.S. exporters.

  • Scrap Materials

Scrap materials include a wide range of commodities such as metals, paper, and plastics. U.S. companies exported US $9.5 billion of scrap in 2012, the two biggest of which were copper materials (US $3 billion) and aluminum materials (US $2.4 billion). According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in Washington DC, China has become the destination for about 40 percent of U.S. scrap exports in recent years.

Scrap material is used by Chinese firms to assemble and manufacture finished goods. As an established and diversified manufacturing base in northeast China, Ningbo offers an important market for U.S. exporters of recycled scrap materials.

  • Retail

China is currently focused on rebalancing its economy towards a consumer driven growth model. This opens up greater opportunities for U.S. companies to export goods and services to meet the needs of China’s growing middle class. According to the 2014 Global Metro Monitor Map released by Brookings last year, Ningbo’s GDP per capita in 2014 was US $23,153. A high disposable income translates into higher per capita consumption expenditure, which reached US $4,240 (RMB 27,893) among urban residents of Ningbo in 2014.

Ningbo’s retail sales of consumer goods grew 13.5 percent in 2014 to US $45.4 billion (RMB 299.2 billion), accounting for 18 percent of Zhejiang’s total retail sales. Daily average retail sales reached US $124 million (RMB 820 million). The retail sales of petrol and related products grew 14.9 percent; clothing, footwear, headgear and textiles grew 22.5 percent; cars grew 7.6 percent; while food, beverages, tobacco and alcohol grew 8.1 percent. There has also been a marked rise in the ownership of home consumer durables, such as washing machines, refrigerators, TVs, air-conditioners, microwave ovens and mobile phones, among others.

  • Agricultural Products

About one-fifth of U.S. exports to China consist of agricultural products. China is the largest export market for U.S. soybeans, with a market share of 63 percent. In 2015, U.S. soybean exports were valued at US $12.7 billion. Soybeans are used in a range of products, including cooking oil, milk and animal feed. Other top U.S. exports include cotton (US $3.4 billion), corn (US $1.3 billion), and animal hides and skins (US $827 million). American agricultural exporters should target Ningbo’s textile, food-processing and hospitality industries.

Ningbo figures among the top 25 second-tier cities attractive for food imports. Its rising middle and high income classes, proximity to port facilities and flourishing tourism and related industries provide key advantages to American food exporters (fresh fruits, seafood, wine, liquor and other farm and food products).

Development Zones

Ningbo Economic & Technological Development Zone (NETD)
Located in the north-east of Ningbo, NETD is 17 miles away from the city center. It is situated behind the Beilun Port, and is close to the Ningbo Port and Ningbo Lishe International Airport. Major investors include Exxon Mobile, Dupont and Dow Chemical. It is focused on chemicals, stainless steel, shipbuilding, automobiles, modern paper making, electric machinery and textiles.

Ningbo Daxie Development Zone
The Daxie Development Zone was approved in 1993 and has the infrastructure, industrial and logistical foundations for the transshipment of energy, port-related petrochemicals and containers.

Ningbo National Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone
Founded in 1999, the National Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone is only 6.2 miles from the Ningbo International Airport and 11 miles from Ningbo Port. The zone is focused on chemical production and processing, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, raw material processing, R&D, photovoltaic and communications, software and micro-electronics.

Contact Information

U.S. Commercial Service - Shanghai

Shanghai Center, Suite 631, 1376 Nanjing West Road

Shanghai 200040, China

Tel: (86-21) 6279-7630

Fax: (86-21) 6279-7639

Email: office.shanghai@trade.gov

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