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Foreign trade growth steady
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09:09, June 12, 2008

Foreign trade growth steady
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China's foreign trade remains robust, with the total trade volume breaking the $1 trillion mark for the first five months of the year. Increased imports outpaced exports, leading to a declined trade surplus, according to the latest Customs figures.

The General Administration of Customs said on its website yesterday that the trade surplus for the first five months of the year was $78 billion, down by 8.6 percent, or $7.32 billion less than the previous year. Imports have picked up pace since the beginning of this year, accelerating to $467 billion, up by 30.4 percent year-on-year.

Qi Jingmei, an economist with the State Information Center, said imports increased quickly for two reasons - the government's policy of encouraging imports worked, and the skyrocketing price of oil and other raw materials. Despite concerns that the slowdown in the US economy, rising raw material costs and yuan appreciation would have a negative impact on the market, exports for the first five months reached $545 billion, a 22.9 percent increase.

Qi said the increase of export shows Chinese enterprises remain strong in terms of foreign trade despite the appreciation of yuan and rising costs, and that the trend will continue for the rest of the year.

"We were expecting the export components to slow down marginally. But it doesn't look as though that's happening at all," said Dwyfor Evans, economist at State Street in Hong Kong. "What this is basically telling us is that the slowdown in the US economy hasn't really broadened out to the rest of the world," he said.

Ken Peng, economist from Citi Group, estimated that export growth is likely to remain robust, at a pace above 20 percent, especially if conditions stabilize in the US.

Imports of primary products picked up fast, as a result of both the import volume and high commodity prices. From January to May, the import of primary products reached $150.2 billion, a 69.4 percent increase. China imported 190 million tons of iron ore, up 16.9 percent.

Imports saw continued support from global commodity prices and the demand from reconstruction and investment, although this was likely far short of the pace in May, Peng from Citi said.

The trade surplus expanded in May as import growth surged, overshadowing the also strong export growth. But experts say the success in both imports and exports will be temporary because of the impact of the earthquake and the holiday distortions.

Source: China Daily

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