Chinese demand for foreign autos, cosmetics robust - official surveys

BEIJING, May 28 (Reuters) - Chinese consumer demand for foreign foodstuff, cosmetics and automobiles is strong, two surveys by China's commerce ministry showed on Monday, and local distributors plan to ramp up orders from overseas suppliers in the next 12 months.

Nearly a third of the around 1,400 consumers surveyed said they were planning to buy more imported merchandise over the next six months, especially cosmetics, watches and glasses, baby products, passenger cars and jewelry, the commerce ministry said.

Foreign passenger cars are in high demand, the ministry said. More than 30 percent of the consumers who responded to the question of whether they would buy more foreign autos said they were keen to in the next half year, particularly SUVs and new energy vehicles.

China plans to cut import tariffs for automobiles and car parts on July 1, opening up greater access to the world's largest auto market amid an easing of trade tensions with the United States.

China is looking to boost domestic consumption amid signs of slowing momentum in the world's second-largest economy. The survey results would also be welcome news to global brands looking to deepen their presence in China, particularly in the country's inner cities.

In the survey, 38 percent of consumers who responded to the question on cosmetic purchases said they were planning to buy more foreign brands over the next six months, while three quarters of them said the domestic skin care market was not meeting current demand.

In December, China cut import taxes on almost 200 consumer products including food, health supplements, pharmaceuticals, garments and recreational goods to 7.7 percent on average from 17.3 percent. Import duties on certain cosmetics were halved to 5 percent.

Among the more dramatic cuts were tariffs on milk powder and diapers, where taxes were slashed to zero percent. An overwhelming majority of consumers said they intended to keep buying foreign milk powder and diapers, or even buy more.

Filming equipment, air purifiers and electronic toothbrushes and robotic vacuum cleaners were in short supply in the Chinese market, according to a third of the respondents.

The second survey of a thousand distribution companies showed "relatively strong appetite" in boosting imports, the commerce ministry said, particularly in food, cosmetics, watches and passenger cars.

More than 10 percent of firms surveyed said they would import more wines, fruits, beers, heath supplements, fragrances, skin care and makeup, over the next year.

They were also keen to boost imports of new energy cars, SUVs and sedans. (Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo Editing by Jacqueline Wong)