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China might become top world exporter, but weakness remains
2010-01-10
   BEIJING, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- China will probably overtake Germany to become the world's largest exporter though its exports in 2009 had fallen 16 percent from a year earlier, according to figures released Sunday by the General Administration of Customs (GAC).

    But Chinese experts and officials said the country was far from being a real trade power if measured by exports structure, technological innovation and industry competitiveness.

    GAC figures showed China's monthly exports in December 2009 were worth 130.7 billion U.S. dollars, up 17.7 percent from a year earlier. It was the first rise since November 2008, when the country's exports contracted 2.2 percent year on year after sluggish overseas demand crippled China's export engine.

    In total, GAC figures showed that China's exports in 2009 stood at 1.2 trillion U.S. dollars, down 16 percent from 2008.

    Germany, which had been since 2002 holding the title as the world's largest exporter, didn't unveil its export value in 2009 yet.

    But BGA, the Federation of German Wholesale and Foreign Trade, had forecast that Germany's exports in 2009 might fall 18 percent to 816 billion euros (about 1.18 trillion U.S. dollars).

    "The prospect that China will overtake Germany to become top global exporter only means that China has indeed become a large trading country in terms of exporting scale," said Zhao Jinping, a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council (cabinet).

    "But in terms of the structure of exports, technological innovation and industry competitiveness, China is far from being eligible for the title of 'trade power'," he told Xinhua.

    According to Zhao, China's exports had changed from labor-intensive products in the 1990s to current technology-intensive products, and electrical and electronic products as well as high-tech products have become a most important part of China's exports.

    But China's technology-intensive exports fell in the category of processing and assembling trade. About 83 percent of its high-tech exports and 75 percent of electronic exports were made by foreign-funded enterprises, Zhao said.

    He said German enterprises put more emphasis on technology, branding, quality and services, which generated higher added-value.

    Zhao said a full recovery of China's trade might take another several years. China should promote exports of high value-added products through branding and technological innovation, he added.

    Zhong Shan, vice minister of commerce, agreed that China was not a strong trade power. "China should adjust the product structure and transform its growth pattern," he said.

    In December 2009, China's imports hit record monthly high to reach 112.3 billion U.S. dollars, up 55.9 percent from the same period of 2008, according to the GAC.

    The Fujian-based Industrial Securities said in a research note Sunday that the jump of December's imports resulted from strong domestic demand for commodities and mechanical equipment that were necessary in construction of infrastructure projects and property.

    Imports of raw materials that were used in manufacturing trade also rose significantly, it said.

    According to the GAC, China's imports of iron ore in 2009 rose 41.6 percent from a year earlier to 630 million tonnes, at an average price of 79.9 U.S. dollars per tonne.

    In 2009, the economy imported 200 million tonnes of crude oil, up 13.9 percent from 2008, at an average price of 438 U.S. dollars per tonne.

    The country's imports in 2009 stood at 1.01 trillion U.S. dollars, down 11.2 percent from a year earlier, said the GAC.

    In December 2009, China's foreign trade amounted to 243 billion U.S. dollars, which represented a year-on-year increase of 32.7 percent and a month-to-month rise of 16.7 percent.

    In total, China's foreign trade in 2009 dropped 13.9 percent from a year earlier to 2.21 trillion U.S. dollars and its trade surplus last year slid 34.2 percent year on year to 196.1 billion U.S. dollars.

    According to the GAC, the European Union (EU) continued to be China's biggest trading partner in 2009, with two-way trade totaling 364.1 billion U.S. dollars, down 14.5 percent from a year earlier.

    Trade between China and the United States, the country's second biggest trade partner, fell 10.6 percent to 298.3 billion U.S. dollars.

    Japan remained China's No. 3 trade partner with bilateral trade totaling 228.9 billion U.S. dollars, down 14.2 percent from 2008, according to the GAC.

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