Foreign trade sector faces 'gloomy times'

By Xin Zhiming and Jiang Wei (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-03-11 07:44

China's foreign trade faces grim times in the coming months, Commerce Minister Chen Deming said yesterday even as the government tries to take steps to boost trade.

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In January, China's exports saw a year-on-year decrease of 17.5 percent while imports declined 43.2 percent, according to customs statistics.

"Affected by the global economic crisis, China has seen a decline in both imports and exports since November," Chen said at a press conference during the annual session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

A report released by the country's top planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, last week predicted that the country's foreign trade would grow 8 percent year-on-year this year, compared to 17.8 percent last year.

The current downward trend in trade, however, has made it tough for businesses to achieve the growth target, said Chen Menggen, analyst with Hongyuan Securities.

"External demand remains weak as some major markets, such as the United States, the European Union and Japan, are not expected to recover until the second half," he said.

Chen said the government would support exporters, in particular those of electronic goods and machines that account for 57 percent of the country's exports.

The government has raised export rebate rates and will expand the coverage of export credit insurance and encourage financial institutions to offer export credit services to boost exports, he said.