Beijing to slash import duties on 600 products

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 December, 2009, 12:00am

Beijing will slash import tariffs on more than 600 products including coal and high-powered engines next year, a move in line with its commitments to the World Trade Organisation.

The Ministry of Finance said in a circular yesterday overall import duties from January 1 would remain unchanged from this year at 9.8 per cent.

'China has fully honoured its commitments to the WTO by lowering the tariffs,' the ministry said. 'From now on, China will make full use of the domestic and overseas markets to optimise the economic structure and chase stable, while relatively fast economic growth.'

The products whose import duties will be cut include coal, naphtha and strawberries.

Under the agreement China signed with the WTO, the country promised to gradually lower import tariffs.

China was officially admitted to the global trade organisation in December 2001.

At the time, government and industry officials feared a lower import tariff would eventually lead to a collapse of mainland companies.

'Overall, China's manufacturing sectors have survived the invasion of foreign products in the past eight years despite the lower tariffs,' said Zhang Youwen, the chief world economy researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

'However, it is not only a game of survival. The home-grown manufacturers have to move up the value chain to help the economy grow further.'

Since 2002, the country's import tariff has been lowered from 15.3 per cent to 9.8 per cent, the finance ministry said.

Beijing would raise the import tariff on fuel oil, the ministry said without giving details.

'The adjustments in tariffs are also a result of the country's demands,' said Shenyin Wanguo Securities economist Li Huiyong. 'Those products badly needed on the domestic market will benefit from lower duties.'

The ministry said it would cut import duty on coal next year, but it did not elaborate.

China, the world's largest coal producer, became a net importer of coal this year for the first time, as the economic recovery boosted demand for energy.

In the first 10 months of this year, China imported 96.9 million tonnes of coal, up 172 per cent from a year earlier. Coal imports are expected to reach 114.2 million tonnes this year, according to Wood Magazine.

The demand for coal will continue to rise next year as power generators grab the fuel to increase electricity output amid the country's strong economic recovery.

The buoyant vehicle market on the mainland has also increased demand for high-technology engines and has prompted the central government to cut the tax on them.

Vehicle sales surpassed 12 million units at the end of last month, with the country well on its way to becoming the world's largest car market this year.

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers predicts vehicle sales will exceed 13 million units this year.

It was estimated that the United States would record car sales of about 11.5 million units this year.