BEIJING - According to the World Trade Organization, China's share in global exports rose to 9.6 percent by value in 2009. China replaced Germany as the biggest exporter. However, this was achieved in the context of global economic downturn. China's foreign trade actually decreased 13.9 percent last year. The fall was the first in 11 years and the biggest drop since 1978, when the country embarked on its reform and opening.
China's exports and imports are expected to continue recovering this year. The first half saw robust growth. Total foreign trade went up 43.1 percent year-on-year, exceeding expectations. The value was 9.6 percent more than the corresponding figure for 2008, when the economic crisis was beginning to unfold.
Ministry of Commerce (MOC) spokesman Yao Jian said this did not warrant optimism in the second half. On several occasions this year, Commerce Minister Chen Deming called for caution in estimating "recovery growth." After all, the impressive growth of the preceding months was measured against recession-related low base figures. Demand for stock replenishment and rushed exports in anticipation of changes to the export tax rebate policy were major factors. Analysts said exports growth would probably slow in following months and the trade surplus would fall.
In a report released in August, the State Information Center (SIC) predicted the country's total exports would grow 24.5 percent for the whole year. Imports were likely to climb 33.6 percent and the trade surplus would fall to around $153.1 billion.
The performance in the first half was credited to the picking up of economies at home and abroad. Demand and consumption grew gradually on the international market and the domestic market proved fairly strong. Procurement for inventory replenishment was a major impetus for exports growth. The total value was driven up by price rises of major bulk imports such as crude oil, up 30.2 percent by volume and 113.1 percent by value.
In March imports outvalued exports by $7.24 billion, resulting in the first monthly deficit since May 2004. The deficit was modest, just 3.1 percent of total trade. The first six months ended with imports growing (52.7 percent) faster than exports (35.2 percent), resulting in a smaller surplus, setting the scenario in months to come.
The proportion of exports to new economies such as ASEAN, South Africa, Russia and Brazil grew, while those to the United States and Japan shrank, indicating efforts to diversify export destinations had paid off and dependence on the developed Western market eased. However, exports to the three major partners, the European Union included, still accounted for 45.5 percent of the total.