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Foreign trade soars 39% in first half year
( 2003-07-12 10:59) (China Daily HK Edition)

China's foreign trade soared 39 per cent year-on-year to US$376.14 billion in the first half of the year, customs statistics indicate.

Exports rose 34 per cent to US$190.32 billion and imports 44.5 per cent to US$185.82 billion, with a trade surplus of US$4.5 billion, the General Administration of Customs announced yesterday.

The growth beat the pessimistic predictions of experts concerning the negative effects of SARS.

Many economists expected that the SARS outbreak in mid-April would put heavy pressure on China's exports.

Even optimistic economists had anticipated big falls in the growth of China's general exports, which contrast with processing exports made from imported materials.

General exports grew 36.5 per cent to total US$81.26 billion in the first six months of this year and made up 42.7 per cent of China's total exports in the period.

Trade with the country's largest trading partner Japan rose 36.1 per cent year-on-year to US$60.91 billion.

The United States remained China's second largest trading partner and largest purchaser with trade volume up 34.4 per cent to US$56.4 billion.

As China's third largest trading partner, the European Union saw its trading volume with China increase 44.2 per cent from comparable months last year to US$55.51 billion.

Growth of trade with other major trading partners was also over 20 percentage points, said customs officials. Among these, trade with South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was up over 40 per cent from comparable months of last year.

In another development, China's central bank yesterday reported a sharp money supply growth during the first half of the year.

M2, a key official barometer for money supply that includes cash in circulation and all sorts of deposits, grew 20.8 per cent, the People's Bank of China said in a press release.

The rate compares to 14.7 per cent registered a year ago and the 16 per cent target set for the entire 2003.

Money supply's rapid growth, which is closely related to loan growth, lent strong support to economic growth, the central bank said in the press release.

By the end of June, outstanding loans issued by all financial institutions totalled 15.9 trillion (US$1.9 trillion), up 22.9 per cent on a year-on-year basis.

The money supply growth also played a role in promoting social stability by providing support to enterprises during the SARS outbreak, the central bank said. Money supply was still on the fast track it embarked upon in mid-2001, when some key economic policy makers said they believed banks' financial support was inadequate for a vibrant economy.

However, central bank officials said earlier this year that they worried money supply was overly rapid and hinted that it would need to be slowed to avoid the emergence of an overheated economy.

Last month, the central bank issued a circular demanding commercial banks clear up irregularities in real-estate developers' borrowing to reduce developers' over-reliance on banking loans. It also suggested the commercial banks be more strict in lending to home buyers who are purchasing more than one property. The circular was a clear indication that the central bank intends to tackle problems of sectors it deems having overly relaxed lending policies.

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