China’s foreign trade on recovery track

Beijing, April 10 (IANS) China’s foreign trade growth continued to gain traction in the first quarter, indicating that the world’s second-largest economy is firming up.

China’s foreign trade — exports and imports combined — increased 13.4 percent year on year to $6.12 trillion in the first three months, faster than the 8-percent goal set for the whole year, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said Wednesday.

The trade surplus expanded to $43.07 billion from $210 million during the same period last year, reported Xinhua.

Zheng Yuesheng, spokesman for the GAC, attributed the higher-than-expected growth to an optimized policy environment for foreign trade.

Last year, China rolled out a raft of measures, including speeding up the export tax rebate process and reducing administrative costs for companies, to combat the influence of sluggish external demand and anaemic domestic growth.

The effects of these policies, combined with China’s improving economy, point to slightly better trade prospects for this year, Zheng noted.

China’s foreign trade saw a mere 6.2-percent growth in 2012, falling short of the government’s goal of 10 percent for that year. The economy saw its slowest growth in 13 years in 2012, growing 7.8 percent.

After the economy began to show signs of recovery in the fourth quarter of last year, confidence gradually built among Chinese exporters and entrepreneurs, as evidenced by GAC data that showed the export managers’ index climbing for the fourth consecutive month in March.

In the first three months, two-way trade with the EU, China’s largest trade partner, went down 1.9 percent, a softer decline than the 3.7-percent drop logged in 2012, while that with the US, its second-largest trade partner, rose 10.8 percent.

Trade with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries increased 15.5 percent, although that with Japan shrank 10.7 percent during the period.

Zheng said that despite this year’s improving trade outlook, there is little possibility of a significant turnaround on the demand side from developed economies.

“Up until now, we have not seen signs of steady growth in external demand,” Zheng said, adding that other challenges, such as rising operational costs and exchange rates, increasing competition from other countries and rising protectionism, will complicate the country’s export growth.

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