China plans to increase consumer goods imports

Updated: 2011-03-08 11:21
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BEIJING - Feng Kang, a "shopaholic" in southern Guangzhou city, has always hoped that she can buy top brands at the same price in her city as in Hong Kong, which is three hours' drive away.

Feng, just like the 10-million other residents of Guangzhou, likes to hunt for cheap top brands in Hong Kong.

Feng would go to Hong Kong once a month: the items on her shopping list range from electronic products, cosmetics to daily necessities like toothpaste and tissues.

"I have no preference for luxury goods, but the high import tariff on the mainland makes even common foreign products so expensive that they become luxurious," she said.

She cited her favorite South Korean-brand skin care product as an example. "It sells more than 800 yuan ($121.2) per set in Guangzhou, but only 500 yuan in Hong Kong," she said.

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Feng represents an increasing group of Chinese citizens who favor shopping overseas.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce, the number of Chinese citizens who shop for luxury goods overseas increased 30 percent in 2010 from the previous year.

"It will be much better if I can buy foreign brand products at a local shop and at a price equal to Hong Kong," Feng said, adding that she was happy that her dream may come true in two or three years.

Her optimism comes from news that China plans to increase imports of consumer goods over the coming five years.

The plan is written in the draft of the country's 12th Five-year Program (2011-2015), which has been delivered to legislators for reviewing.

The draft document said China will "increase consumer goods imports in a proper manner" as part of its efforts to optimize imports to achieve a more balanced trade and economic growth.

The policy would benefit domestic consumers, enabling them to have more options and better services, said Xiao Yaofei, a researcher with the international economic research center of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies.

Boosting imports would help balance China's trade account, ease pressures for the yuan's appreciation, and provide more opportunities for foreign companies to access the country's market, Xiao said.

Commerce Minister Chen Deming said Monday that China is expected to become the world's biggest consumption market over the next decade and surpass Japan to become the world's largest consumer of high-end goods by 2015. He attributed the rise to the country's large population, rising income and inadequate supplies of local high-end brands.

Although the government did not elaborate on how it plans to increase consumer product imports, the measures should include simplifying regulations and lowering import taxes, said Zhang Xiaoji, a senior researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council.

Zhang noted that high import taxes are one of the obstacles that block China's consumer goods imports, adding that the country should continue to lower import taxes on consumer products.

China's general tariff level stood at 9.8 percent last year, down from 15.3 percent in 2001 when the country joined the World Trade Organization.