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Exports recovery continues

By LI JIABAO in Beijing and YU RAN in Shanghai (China Daily)

08:42, May 09, 2013

Imports also rise, but doubts voiced over accuracy of data

China's exports are continuing to recover despite lingering doubts over the accuracy of newly released trade data.

Meanwhile, the economic recovery in the world's second-largest economy saw double-digit import growth in the first four months of the year, analysts said.

China's exports in April rose 14.7 percent from a year earlier, compared with 10 percent growth in March. Imports rose 16.8 percent, compared with 14.1 percent growth the previous month, yielding a trade surplus of $18.16 billion, the General Administration of Customs said on Wednesday.

The first four months saw exports grow by 17.4 percent year-on-year and imports rise 10.6 percent.

"Exports and imports both picked up pace in April and the export acceleration was driven by improving external demand, especially in emerging markets," said Wang Jun, an expert with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

Exports to members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China's third-largest trade partner in 2012, rose 37.23 percent year-on-year in April, compared with 11.62 percent growth in March, while the exports decrease to the United States, European Union and Japan slowed in April, said Chen Hufei, a researcher from the Bank of Communications.

The 113th session of the Canton Fair, which ended on Sunday in Guangzhou and is seen as a barometer of China's foreign trade, attracted 202,766 overseas traders, up 7 percent from the fall session. Transactions reached $35.54 billion, up 8.8 percent from the previous session, but down 1.4 percent from the spring session last year.

Trade: 'Hot money may pose as trade payments'

Wu Ailing, manager of Shanghai Reaching Kayo Fashion Co, a medium-sized clothing manufacturer, said, "Orders from the US increased about 10 percent for the first quarter compared with the previous year as the economy is recovering slowly as expected, and hopefully the demand from overseas will keep growing."

Chen, from the Bank of Communications, said the April acceleration in exports and imports was also caused by slow trade growth in April 2012.

"What's more, there is a very high possibility of an inflow of speculative funds, or hot money disguised as trade payments, to avoid the government's capital controls and take advantage of appreciation of the renminbi, which inflated trade figures remarkably in March and April, especially the Chinese mainland's trade with Hong Kong."

The mainland's export growth to Hong Kong fell to 57.08 percent in April from 92.9 percent in March.

The State Administration of Foreign Exchange, China's foreign exchange regulator, said on Sunday it will strengthen its scrutiny of export invoices, and impose tougher penalties on companies giving fake data.

Li Xunlei, deputy CEO and chief economist of Haitong Securities in Shanghai, said, "In addition to trade with Hong Kong, the shipments to the US and ASEAN were also probably overstated, as global monetary easing is in full flight and significant demand improvement for Chinese exports has yet to be seen in overseas markets amid a weak world economic recovery. The second half of this year will see export growth stay below 10 percent."

Fan Jianping, chief economist at the State Information Center, a government think tank, said trade figures may start to reflect the real picture in May when exports are projected to rise 10 percent year-on-year and imports by 12 percent.

Li added, "The import acceleration in April is mainly backed by China's economic recovery - though weak - and renminbi appreciation. The second half of this year will see imports maintain steady growth of about 16 percent."

China's economy expanded 7.7 percent in the first quarter, ending a seven-quarter slowdown.

Iron ore imports by the nation, the world's biggest buyer, stood at 67.2 million metric tons in April, the highest in four months, as greater steel production boosted demand.

Meanwhile, crude imports reached the highest level in three months in April, with the world's second-biggest oil consumer buying 23 million metric tons of crude more than it exported last month, according to figures from the customs agency.

Wang, from the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said: "Amid the weak world economic recovery and a fragile pickup in China's economy, the country's foreign trade is maintaining momentum ... despite the overstated figures.

"But the trade outlook this year remains challenging in view of uncertainties in the recovery of the EU and the US, while renminbi appreciation burdens exporters heavily. Whole-year trade will likely be better than last year if there is not a dramatic change in overseas markets."

Ke Zhongliang, sales manager of Wenzhou Jinlishi Shoes, said, "The statistics probably haven't shown the current situation of small and micro-enterprises, which are mostly still struggling with low demand from overseas. There is no obvious sign that export trading will recover very soon."

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