Beijing forecasts that the recent robust recovery in mainland exports will run out of steam in the second half of this year as the global economy remains shaky. The State Information Centre, a think tank under the National Development and Reform Commission, predicted export growth for July to December would slow to 16.3 per cent, compared to a rate of 35.2 per cent for the first half of the year. That will leave annual expansion at 24.5 per cent. Imports are expected to grow 19.3 per cent in the second half - less than half the pace in the first six months of 52.7 per cent. This will result in a 33.6 per cent gain for the year, it was reported yesterday in the state-run China Securities Journal. The expected slower growth in exports has been attributed to a volatile economic recovery in the United States and the European Union, the mainland's largest export destinations. Other factors included the decision to scrap a value-added-tax rebate on 406 types of exports on July 15 and Europe's continuing sovereign debt problem. Nonetheless, economists said mainland exports had regained the ground lost during the global financial crisis sooner than Beijing had expected. 'The weak recovery in China's core markets will curb export growth,' UBS economist Wang Tao said. 'However, it will still make a full recovery this year; faster than the central government's expectation of it taking two to three years,' Wang said. The State Information Centre's export forecast was between the 24 per cent growth estimate by UBS, the 22 per cent growth forecast by Morgan Stanley and an 18 per cent increase of Barclays Capital. Some economists said the decision by the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation to end tax rebates on exports ranging from steel to corn starch last week meant the worst was over for exporters. Exports fell 16 per cent last year under the weight of the global financial crisis. The deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Stanley Lau Chin-ho, said the mainland's export sector faced stronger headwinds in the second half of the year after wages and raw material costs rose sharply and European importers' appetite soured. 'Consumer confidence in the EU has been more sluggish in the past few months and the euro was relatively weaker against the yuan,' Lau said. 'We have seen many European merchandisers split orders over a period of time and refuse to bear rising labour costs.' He said the improvement in the US economy was relatively slow because of high unemployment and flat retail sales and property prices.