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China's import tariffs cut praised

China's import tariffs cut praised

Updated: 2012-04-06 03:33

By Fu Jing in Brussels Ding Qingfen in Beijing (China Daily)

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Move sets good example in era of protectionism, WTO official says

China's decision to cut import tariffs, against the backdrop of lurking protectionism in "too many" countries, has been hailed by the World Trade Organization.

"At a time when too many governments are reverting to trade restrictive measures, news of China's market-opening initiative is most welcome," WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said in an interview with China Daily in Brussels.

Rockwell was speaking after China announced a package of measures cutting import tariffs last week.

The measures will see duty reduced on "some energy products, raw materials, consumer goods closely related to people's lives, and key items that China does not produce".

And Beijing will encourage more purchases from countries and regions that have signed free trade agreements with China.

Boosting imports will entail a more open market for a range of goods, Rockwell said. The Ministry of Commerce will announce details of the measures soon.

Former deputy minister of commerce Wei Jianguo told China Daily last month that tariffs on a wide range of consumer goods, including luxury items, will be reduced at least twice this year.

"Time is crucial for China to take measures to promote imports as the nation's economy slows down," said Huo Jianguo, director of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce.

Import growth has dropped since late last year. In January and February, imports grew 7.7 percent to $268.6 billion, according to the General Administration of Customs.

China cut its economic growth forecast to 7.5 percent for this year. Some analysts predict that the economy might have grown 8.4 percent in the first quarter, the slowest since the second quarter of 2009.

Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said on March 18 that China, now the world's second-largest importer, will become the biggest in a few years.

China not only provides the world with high-quality products at low cost, but also buys high-end goods supplied by global brands, Chen said.

The country's trade surplus narrowed 14.5 percent year-on-year to $155.14 billion in 2011, with imports up 24.9 percent to $1.74 trillion.

The latest import-boosting measures follow last month's annual session of the National People's Congress, the top legislature.

The NPC approved the restructuring of the economy by boosting domestic consumption and balancing exports and imports.

The international community will benefit from this restructuring, Zhou Shijian, a senior expert at Tsinghua University, said.

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