GENEVA -- China surpassed the
United States as the world's second-largest exporter in the middle of last year,
according to figures released Thursday by the World Trade Organization, and the
Asian country is pulling further and further ahead.
A worker rides a bicycle past
containers at a port in Shanghai December 13, 2006. A World Trade
Organization report on Thursday, April 12, 2007 says China
surpassed the United States as the world's second-largest exporter in the
middle of last year. [Reuters]
Export growth from China boomed 27 percent last year, outpacing all other
major trading nations, the WTO said in releasing its first batch of global trade
statistics for 2006.
While China finished behind Germany and the United States in total exports
for the full year, it overtook the United States in the last six months of 2006
and will almost certainly finish above the US in the 2007 totals.
At current growth rates, China is projected to overtake Germany as the
world's biggest exporter in 2008.
"China's merchandise trade expansion remained outstandingly strong," the WTO
said in its 21-page report. "Office and telecom equipment continued to be the
mainstay of Chinese export growth, but significant gains in world market shares
in 2006 could be observed in 'traditional' exports such as clothing and 'new'
products such as iron and steel."
The WTO report comes at a time of rising tension between China and the United
States and some of the findings will surely fuel debate that Beijing's trade
policies are preventing American goods from entering its vast market. US critics
accuse the Chinese economy of benefiting from an undervalued
currency, government subsidies, unfair barriers to foreign competition and
The United States filed two new complaints against China at the WTO on
Tuesday over copyright policy and restrictions on the sale of American movies,
music and books.
The new cases are the latest move against China by the Bush administration,
which is trying to deal with America's rising political anger over its soaring
trade deficit that set a record for the fifth consecutive year in 2006 at
US$765.3 billion. The US imbalance with China grew to US$232.5 billion, the
highest ever with a single country.
The WTO report said China's imports rose 20 percent last year to US$792
billion - a surge that was "faster than global trade but continued to lag behind
The commerce body partly attributed the weaker import figures to lower oil
prices, but did not cite any other factors. The WTO tends to avoid issues tied
to energy or currency valuation.
Since 2000, China has more than doubled its share in world merchandise
exports to 8 percent. Those figures do not include the goods sold abroad by Hong
Kong producers because the "special administrative region" entered the WTO as a
separate member in 1995 while still under British rule.
Overall real goods trade throughout the world achieved 8 percent growth in
2006, the highest in six years, the report said. High prices for fuels and
metals meant the trade expansion was 15 percent when measured in monetary terms,
reaching US$11.76 trillion.
"The strong performance in 2006 is welcome, particularly the gains made by
developing and least-developed countries," WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy
The world's poorest countries boosted their trade by about 30 percent, fueled
by sales of petroleum and other basic commodities. Developing nations as a whole
increased their share of global goods trade to a record 36 percent.
Europe recorded its strongest growth in merchandise exports since 2000, but
continued to lag behind the global rate of expansion, the report said. Even as
its trade deficit soared, the US recorded its best export growth in more than a
Africa's goods exports rose 21 percent to give the continent its highest
share of global trade since 1990, but most of the growth was due to increased
oil sales, the WTO said. Latin America's commercial expansion decelerated
slightly, while Asia remained the most buoyant of all regions for exports.
For 2007, the WTO predicted that a slowdown in global economic growth to 3
percent could also keep real goods trade growth to about 6 percent. Risks facing
financial and property markets, and the large trade imbalances in goods and
services have raised the level of uncertainty for this year and the likelihood
of weaker trade expansion, WTO economists said.
Lamy said the current round of global free trade talks, which have stumbled
through nearly six years, could help stabilize the global trading system.
"The uncertainties that lie ahead are a warning for us not to lose sight of
the need to continue to reform the world economy," he said.
Top trade officials from the U.S., the European Union, Brazil and India said
Thursday they were making progress in talks aimed at reviving treaty
negotiations, but many months of inaction have dimmed prospects for a