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Sino-African trade booms amid crisis

By Li Jiabao | China Daily | Updated: 2012-07-18 08:03

China's trade with Africa in the first half of this year expanded much faster than the nation's foreign trade overall, which has helped to compensate for the slowdown in trade with the European Union and other regions affected by the economic crisis, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Trade between China and Africa surged by 22.3 percent year-on-year in the first five months to $80.5 billion, said Wu Fang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce.

China's imports from Africa rose by 25.5 percent to $49.6 billion during the same period, while its exports to Africa grew by 17.5 percent to reach $30.9 billion, he said.

"China's trade with Africa will stand at around $90 billion in the first half of this year, with the full-year figure expected to reach $180 billion," said Cheng Zhigang, secretary-general of the China-Africa Industrial Cooperation and Development Forum.

Later this month, the Ministry of Commerce will release the data on Sino-African trade for the first half of the year.

Because China's trade with its major partners - the EU and Japan - almost stagnated in the first half of the year, "rapid growth of trade with Africa has really become a highlight of China's foreign trade," Wu said. "It's also noticeable that the trade deficit with Africa has further expanded."

China's foreign trade totaled $1.84 trillion in the first half of this year, an increase of 8 percent year on year in the despite an overall slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.

Trade with the EU edged up by 0.7 percent in the first half of this year, while trade with Japan dropped by 0.2 percent, which is a far cry from the foreign trade growth China has experienced in recent years, according to the General Administration of Customs.

"Because of the downtown of global trade and world economy, trade between China and Africa will expand at a slower pace this year compared with the rapid growth in the past decade," said Wang Cheng'an, executive vice-president and secretary-general of the professional committee of competition policy and law under the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies.

China-Africa trade has grown by more than 30 percent annually since 2000, Wang said.

Trade between China and Africa totaled $166.3 billion in 2011, up 31 percent year-on-year, according to the World Investment 2012 report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

China's imports from Africa, including crude oil and iron ore, surged by 38.9 percent year-on-year to reach $93.2 billion last year while its exports - mainly machinery, electrical products and textile products - increased 21.9 percent to $73.1 billion.

South Africa, Angola, Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt topped the list as China's biggest trade partners in 2011.

"Trade will resume its fast annual growth - higher than 30 percent - in the long term because of the great trade potential between China and Africa," Wang said.

"As China continues to expand domestic demand, the complementary trade structure between China and Africa will be the major driving force for the fast growth. In addition, China has taken many measures to expand bilateral trade," Wu said.

China enlarged the catalog of duty-free products imported from Africa, exempting duties on 190 products from 29 least-developed countries since 2005. The high prices of energy and mineral products have also helped to increase the dollar amount of trade between China and Africa, Wu said.

Despite the fact that China's imports of crude oil from Africa declined by 15 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year to 60.1 million tons, the value increased by 16.5 percent to $47.1 billion in the same period because of high oil prices.

In the first four months, Angola became China's biggest trade partner in Africa, with a trade value of $12.4 billion, up 44.14 percent year-on-year, while trade with South Africa increased by 4.25 percent to $9.17 billion, according to the General Administration of Customs.

"It's worth noticing that China's trade deficit with Africa will further expand this year from the trade deficit of $20.1 billion in 2011," Wu said.

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