Global doubts stoke mainland trade volatility

While Beijing warns of a choppy quarter ahead, it is confident on steady growth in FDI for year

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 1:09am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 4:34am

Growth in the mainland's exports and imports may be volatile in the first three months of this year, but the government is cautiously optimistic about the outlook for the whole year, the Ministry of Commerce said.

Shen Danyang, a spokesman for the ministry, also noted that it might be difficult for growth in the trade sector this year to exceed that of last year.

Exports grew 7.9 per cent last year compared with 2012, while imports increased 7.3 per cent, missing an official 8 per cent growth target.

"We are still facing a relatively severe trade situation this year, considering the still unsteady global recovery, rising input costs for domestic firms and fierce competitions from global markets," Shen said.

The sombre assessment of near-term prospects came as the commerce ministry published data showing that the mainland attracted a record US$117.6 billion in foreign direct investment last year, underlining investors' confidence that the world's second-largest economy can keep growing at a solid pace while retooling its growth model.

The ministry said the amount of foreign direct investment was up 5.3 per cent from 2012. Last month's inflows climbed 3.3 per cent from a year earlier to US$12.1 billion, extending an upward trend seen since March last year.

"We are confident that we will see steady growth in foreign direct investment this year as global investor sentiment recovers and reforms by the new [mainland] leadership help attract more foreign capital," Shen said.

He also said the mainland had obvious advantages as a destination for foreign investment in coming years, given its huge market, strong infrastructure support, skilled labour force and relatively stable social system.

China has attracted a steady flow of foreign investment since joining the World Trade Organisation in 2001, as businesses jumped at the chance to enter the world's most populous country.

Asian companies are by far the biggest investors in mainland China, with investment from the top 10 economies in the region, including Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore, rising annually by 7.1 per cent to US$102.5 billion last year.

Investment from the European Union rose 18.1 per cent to US$7.2 billion, while investment from the United States climbed 7.1 per cent to US$3.4 billion.

At the same time, the ministry's data showed more mainland companies are expanding abroad.

Outbound direct investment by non-financial firms jumped 16.8 per cent to US$90.2 billion last year from 2012.

The ministry said about 90 per cent of the outbound investment went into six industries - commercial services, mining, wholesale and retail, manufacturing, construction and transport.