Trade surplus to decline, commerce chief predicts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am

Commerce Minister Chen Deming says the country's global trade surplus is likely to decline further this year.

Chen told a briefing on China's trade policies during the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing yesterday that the United States was the only problematic area, being the only major trading partner with which China still ran a surplus. He said the US accounted for 99 per cent of China's total trade surplus.

He said that while China had showed genuine sincerity in attempts to lower its surplus, the US had yet to do anything to end bans on hi-tech equipment exports to China.

China's total trade was US$2.97 trillion last year, Chen said, with a surplus of US$183.1 billion, down 38 per cent from its 2008 peak.

This year, due to uncertainties in the world market and rising costs at home, the surplus might continue to shrink, with some months even registering a trade deficit, he predicted.

China plans to streamline import procedures for goods ranging from hi-tech equipment to farm products this year, according to a document distributed by the Ministry of Commerce yesterday.

But Chen said there would not be any major increase in imports of agricultural goods.

He said the country's overarching trade policy this year was to stabilise exports, expand imports and reduce the surplus.

China's surplus to gross domestic product ratio - 3.1 per cent last year - ranked in the middle among G20 members, he said, and it was 'not at all a surplus leader'.

In fact, in general trade and service trade, China actually saw a deficit last year, while the only source of surplus was the processing trade, or outsourcing for overseas merchants.

In cross-border investment, according to ministry data, China received US$105.74 billion in foreign direct investment last year, while its outbound direct investment was US$59 billion.

More than two-thirds of China's outbound investment was concentrated in nearby countries.

Chen said China was likely to see inbound and outbound investment reach equilibrium in the next five to 10 years.

Despite the troubles in Libya, the ministry says China would continue to pursue its economic 'go-out' strategy by encouraging Chinese companies to expand business and to invest abroad.

Chen said China would encourage the processing industry to sell in the domestic market and offer design and marketing services to help that process.

In the meantime, more foreign investment is to be channelled into the mainland, especially in central and western China, in hi-tech industry, green and low-carbon solutions, modern agriculture and medical services, education and tourism.

As for the domestic market, Chen said the country would become the world's largest market for luxury goods in 2015, passing Japan, and would become the world's largest retail market in 10 years, surpassing the US.

The ministry said in a statement handed out at the press conference that the government would also increase reserves of meat, sugar and other daily necessities.

It would 'appropriately' begin reserves of more goods this year.