The mainland says it will cut its surplus with the United States this year. The Economic Information Daily said competition from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that had devalued their currencies would slow the growth rate of mainland exports to the United States, because they exported similar goods. Its front-page article said the mainland would increase its imports because Washington would ease restrictions on hi-tech exports. It said the United States had already partly lifted export restrictions on hi-tech products such as civilian-use nuclear technology. The rapid increase in mainland imports would be supported by implementation of a central government policy to encourage the import of high- and new-technology products from the United States. Mainland statistics for 1997 show exports to the US rose 22.5 per cent over the year, while imports grew by only 0.9 per cent. Imports from the US consisted of US$3.36 billion in raw materials and manufactured products amounting to $12.94 billion, consisting of $8.26 billion of machines, including $1.27 billion of aircraft and aircraft parts, machine tools and microchips. The article blames the big increase in the bilateral trade surplus on Hong Kong, which inflated the figure by adding value when goods passed through before re-export. According to mainland figures, nearly 40 per cent of mainland trade with the United States, about $18.63 billion, is re-exported through Hong Kong. The article also said the surplus was due not only to mainland industries, but also those of other countries that had shifted their factories to China to make goods for export. The article said that, last year, such exports jumped by 23 per cent and the general volume reached $28.4 billion, accounting for 58 per cent of the mainland's bilateral trade volume with the United States. It said such factories imported materials from neighbouring countries, which were used in exporting final products to Western markets. The result was that mainland exports to the US were so much larger than its imports. The United States publishes trade statistics that differ from those issued by Beijing and show a larger surplus in China's favour.