Employees work on the production line of an electronic products company in Shaoyang, Hunan province, on June 17, 2020. (TENG ZHIZHONG / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Shaoyang in Hunan province, China's largest cigarette lighter manufacturing export base, will further diversify its export offerings and build several related industrial clusters for other key sectors such as wigs, suitcases and construction machinery, said a government official on Wednesday.

These moves are aimed at quickly meeting soaring demand for such goods and boosting Shaoyang's export volume, said Hua Xuejian, a deputy to the 14th National People's Congress and the city's mayor.

"We hope to expand the presence of our products to more countries and hedge against volatility risks in the international lighter market," Hua said.

The city's lighter exports accounted for 70 percent of China's total export volume of such products last year, covering nearly 200 countries and regions, according to Changsha Customs, a local unit of China's General Administration of Customs.

Supported by 10 established export bases including construction machinery, electronic information, Chinese biomedicine, hardware, hair products and sporting goods, the city's government expects Shaoyang's foreign trade will grow 9.8 percent on a yearly basis to 3.1 billion yuan ($445 million) in the first two months of this year.

"As Central China's Hunan province is the host venue for the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, we will deepen economic and trade ties with African countries and create more business opportunities for our exporters with buyers at signatory economies of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership pact this year," he said.

The official said the city will also support export-oriented companies to participate in major domestic and international trade fairs such as the China Import and Export Fair (the Canton Fair) and Manufacturing World Osaka in Japan in the coming months.

Given the softening global demand conditions and the gloomy business outlook in many parts of the world, Hua stressed that it is necessary to develop new foreign trade formats and models such as cross-border e-commerce and market procurement to guide the city's exporters to promote overseas sales of wigs, lighters, bags and suitcases in 2023.

Supported by 114 lighter manufacturers, including 16 exporters, the lighter industry in Shaoyang has generated jobs for more than 65,000 people with an annual output value of over 12 billion yuan, said Shaoyang's commerce bureau.

They have developed a comprehensive industrial chain and various types of lighters, with price tags ranging from 1 yuan to 50 yuan. Apart from producing standard disposable pocket lighters, noncombustible lighters or household kitchen igniters, they also ship electronic lighters, LED lighters and touch-mode igniters abroad to meet different market needs.

Shaoyang saw its foreign trade value rise 6.1 percent year-on-year to 25.48 billion yuan in 2022, with exports amounting to 24.39 billion yuan, up 4.1 percent year-on-year, said its commerce bureau.

Even though the global economic downturn and uncertainties have created challenges for many countries in maintaining stable foreign trade and investment, China has responded by upgrading its industrial structure and further deepening its reform and opening-up policies, said Gu Xueming, a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing.

Eager to put the growth of its foreign trade on a firmer footing, China will take active steps to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and other high-standard economic and trade agreements, according to the Government Work Report submitted to the National People's Congress for deliberation on Sunday.

Contact the writers at zhongnan@chinadaily.com.cn