The mainland's export growth is likely slow to about 10 per cent in the second quarter from 18.4 per cent in the first owing to rising domestic labour costs and trade barriers, a state-run think tank said.
The State Information Centre, an institution under the country's top economic planner, also said the first quarter's figure was high as companies had inflated their numbers to facilitate foreign-exchange inflows into the mainland, confirming the assessment of many independent researchers.
In a research report published in the China Securities Journal yesterday, the think tank forecast imports may grow about 8 per cent in the second quarter, slightly below the 8.4 per cent in the first three months, generating a trade surplus of about US$128 billion.
Chinese exporters have been plagued by sharply rising operating costs, including labour, capital, resources and logistics, said the report compiled by a team led by State Information Centre chief economist Fan Jianping.
"Apart from that, companies [will] also have to bear high transaction costs resulting from deepening global trade barriers," it said.
Tomorrow, European Union trade chief Karel De Gucht would propose levying punitive import duties on solar panels from China after Chinese production quadrupled between 2009 and 2011, a Reuters report said. The case might be the biggest launched by the European Commission.
Separately, the State Information Centre said negotiations between China, Japan and South Korea on setting up a free-trade zone had been proceeding slowly due to political reasons.
Short-term speculative capital, or hot money, had flowed rapidly into the mainland through foreign trade in the first quarter, the think tank said.
While exports surged 18.4 per cent in the quarter, the value of export deliveries rose only 6.2 per cent. The two sets of data had "matched each other historically", the centre said. "Some companies may have reported higher prices for products exported and lower prices for importing them back to channel forex funds into the mainland."
The institute called on Beijing to expand yuan swaps with nations such as France and Britain to help companies cope with exchange-rate fluctuations.
The mainland's monthly trade data is due tomorrow. The median forecast in a Reuters poll of 27 economists shows exports may have grown 10.3 per cent in April from a year earlier, after rising 10 per cent in the previous month. Imports may have increased 13.9 per cent after gaining 14.1 per cent in March.