Province should be regional service centre, says premier Premier Wen Jiabao has called on Guangdong to speed up economic restructuring and deepen reforms to turn the province into a world-class manufacturing base and a regional centre for modern services. Mr Wen also acknowledged that the nation's economic development faced many problems and contradictions and called on cadres to keep control of prices and ensure stable economic development. His remarks, made during a two-day inspection tour to the province that ended yesterday, came amid rising concern in the central leadership that the mainland's economy has been hit by inflation, soaring labour and raw-material costs, and the global economic slowdown. The trip was part of the leaders' recent fact-finding missions to economic strongholds and key export bases, including Shanghai, Jiangsu , Guangdong, Zhejiang and Shandong . During his trip to Qingdao yesterday to observe the Olympic facilities, President Hu Jintao also inspected operations at several enterprises. Describing Guangdong, especially Shenzhen, as standing at a 'new historical starting point', Mr Wen said the province faced new challenges but also had opportunities, China National Radio reported. To maintain its pioneering position, he said, the province needed to deepen reforms and continue opening up as well as carrying out scientific development. 'The slowdown in the world's economy and the dwindling external demand has increased the negative impact on small and medium enterprises,' he said. Mr Wen stressed that carrying out economic restructuring and reforms was crucial to turning the province into an advanced manufacturing base and regional service centre. Guangdong, which has led the mainland's reform and modernisation drive for more than two decades, is facing increasing pressure to transform its economy as rising costs exert pressure on its traditional low-cost production base. Mr Wen said more support should be given to small and medium enterprises in areas such as credit policy and property taxation, and science- and technology-focused operations that had growth potential should be nurtured. Mr Wen suggested the province should enhance its international competitive edge, create a fair business environment, have an innovative mind and enhance its co-operation with Hong Kong and Macau. The premier had visited places such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan , where he had given his assurances that the nation's policy towards foreign trade and investment would remain unchanged. Official statistics show export growth slowed to 17.6 per cent year on year in June to US$121.53 billion, compared with 28.1 per cent in May. Economists are also forecasting growth in gross domestic product of about 10 per cent this year, compared with last year's 11.9 per cent. The nation's GDP growth slowed to 10.1 per cent in the second quarter.