The growth of exports from China's labor-intensive industries is slowing, and the trend is set to continue, the Ministry of Commerce said Wednesday.
In the first quarter of the year, the value of clothing exports rose 14.7 percent, less than the 17.6 percent growth reported for the same period of last year, the ministry said in a report. Similarly, the value of shoe exports rose 11.2 percent (compared with 16.7 percent last year) and toy exports grew 3.3 percent (down from 29.9 percent).
Total foreign trade was $570 billion in the first quarter, up 24.6 percent on the same period of last year, the report said.
Liu Haiquan, an official with the Ministry of Commerce, said: "Foreign trade has being growing by more than 20 percent a year for the past six years, which is a reasonable level."
Li Yushi, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said: "In the coming years, there will be a trend of export growth in the textile sector declining, as the yuan appreciates and raw material and labor costs increase.
Exports of high energy consuming and high polluting products have all been in decline, the report said.
In the first quarter of this year, the volume of corn exports fell 97.2 percent year on year, while the export volume of steel products fell 19.3 percent compared with the same period 12 months ago.
Exports of machinery and electrical products, however, saw a year-on-year rise of 23.1 percent in the first quarter.
China's export growth to its three largest trade partners - Europe, the United States and Japan - also slowed in the first quarter. Export growth to the US was down 15 percentage points on the same three months of last year.
Meanwhile, exports to emerging markets and neighboring countries grew in the first quarter. The volume of exports to South Korea rose 33.4 percent year on year, while exports to Brazil were up 77.6 percent, the report said.
Trade surplus in the first quarter was $41.4 billion, down 10.6 percent on the same period of last year, the report said.
The value of China's exports in the first three months grew 21.4 percent to $305.9 billion year on year. In contrast, the value of imports rose 28.6 percent to $264 billion in the first quarter.