China boosts efforts to tackle trade surplus

By Zhou Siyu and Ding Qingfen (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-18 09:41
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BEIJING - China will increase efforts to expand imports this year to help balance trade, and to maintain the surplus-deficit ratio at below 3 percent of GDP on the nation's current account, said the Ministry of Commerce on Thursday.

The General Administration of Customs said the trade surplus in January narrowed by 53.5 percent to $6.46 billion, with imports growing faster than exports.

Yao Jian, a ministry spokesman, said the government will take measures to further balance trade. "Promoting imports will be an important policy this year, and more and more people will realize the significance of imports in spurring economic growth and transforming the economic structure," he said.

Last year, the surplus-deficit ratio of GDP in the current account was 3.2 percent, and Yao said the ratio will "fall to below 3 percent" when the import-driven measures are launched.

Yao's remarks ahead of the G20 meeting in Parison on Friday and Saturday, during which discussions will center on moves to correct global trade and economic imbalances.

China's large trade surplus has been cited as one of the root factors that caused the global financial depression in 2008. In 2010, during a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs in Gyeongju, South Korea, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner proposed the ratio of surplus and deficit on the current account of a nation's GDP should be set at 4 percent, as a means of solving global trade imbalances. However, that proposal was opposed by many participating nations.

Since the financial crisis, China's trade surplus has been in decline: in 2010 it fell by 6.4 percent, from a year earlier, to $183.1 billion.

"Recent years have seen the growing importance of China in global trade and economic activity. We have endeavored to maintain stable and balanced trade from 2008 to 2010, and we will continue to do so this year," Yao said.

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Customs statistics showed China's trade surplus in January decreased by 53.5 percent year-on-year to $6.46 billion. Imports surged by 51 percent to $144.3 billion while exports rose by 37.7 percent to $150.7 billion.

"The January figure is a positive signal. What is and will be happening with China's trade strategy indicates that the trade surplus this year will drop sharply," said Zhou Shijian, a senior trade expert and also a designated member of a ministry think-tank.