Bo Xilai

Pledge to slow foreign trade growth

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 January, 2007, 12:00am

Bo Xilai vows to reduce surplus as volume expected to rise 15pc to more than US$2 trillion

China's foreign trade will top US$2 trillion this year, a rise of 15 per cent, Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai says. Still, the pace of growth will be dramatically down on last year's.

'With macroeconomic measures having gradually taken effect, foreign trade growth will be obviously slower this year,' Mr Bo was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

He said reducing the trade surplus was the ministry's top priority this year because an overly large surplus hindered balanced development of the domestic economy and was bad for foreign trade operations.

Foreign trade grew 24 per cent last year, to US$1.76 trillion.

'We will reduce [the trend of] high-energy consumption while enhancing the social responsibility of enterprises,' Xinhua quoted Mr Bo as saying.

'But we should introduce measures to import hi-tech products that are needed domestically.'

The ministry said China still relied on cheap labour and low-tech manufacturing industries that were not competitive and could easily be replaced by other countries.

China's foreign trade has grown an average of 25 per cent since 2001 and this year's expected growth would be the first time it had dropped below 20 per cent.

To balance matters, the ministry had introduced tax rebates for some exports since mid-2006 to increase the competitiveness of Chinese products.

Wang Yong , an economist from the Peking University's School of International Studies specialising in Sino-US trade issues, said it was expected that foreign trade would slow because of various factors.

'First of all, labour costs of Chinese workers have increased over the past two decades amid continuing economic development,' Professor Wang said.

He said some investors had started to move labour-intensive factories to other Asian countries such as Vietnam and India to cut costs.

'Chinese products have faced problems of protectionism and anti-dumping measures in the United States and European markets during the past few years, especially with textile and shoes,' said Professor Wang, who added that foreign firms had also started producing goods in other countries to reduce investment risks.

'It's a fact that 60 per cent of Chinese products are exported because our domestic consumption is weak.

'In order to reduce trade disputes, slowing down the growth in foreign trade volume is necessary.'

Professor Wang said the revaluation of the yuan in the past two years had also contributed to slower foreign trade.

'I predict that there will be a big revaluation of the yuan by the end of this year,' he said.