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China set to boost international trade

Updated: 2013-01-04 02:06
By LAN LAN ( China Daily)

China's trade policies will become more open to boost its sluggish imports and exports this year, despite being set to miss its trade target for 2012, according to a senior official at a top government think tank.

China is losing some advantages, such as low labor costs, but future reforms will intensify its competitiveness, Wei Jianguo, secretary-general of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, told China Daily.

"It's expected that overall reform, ranging from the tax and fiscal system to the function of the government, will be accelerated in this year," said Wei, the former deputy commerce minister.

This reform will be a "big bonus" to sustaining China's growth in all aspects, he said.

At the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in November, there were indications that China will further promote its trade in a diversified way, said Wei, a guest economist for China Daily.

First, it should further cut import duties on more consumer goods, he said.

The Ministry of Finance has announced that from January 2013, more than 780 products, including milk powder for infants, robots for vehicle production and some rubber products, will enjoy lower import duties.

But Wei said such efforts lack variety, scale and scope.

"As a responsible country, China needs to increase its imports, which is important in building healthy bilateral trade and reducing trade friction," Wei said.

In the first 11 months of 2012, China's exports grew 7.3 percent from a year earlier, while imports grew 4.1 percent, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

The government had set a target of 10 percent growth for exports and imports last year, but it seems the goal will be missed, according to officials.

Increasing imports are helping China raise consumption.

Wei said he believes China will adopt a more proactive attitude in multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations.

"It has become a trend that countries are trying to abandon the multilateral framework and step up efforts in strengthening bilateral mechanisms," he said.

A free-trade agreement between the United States and South Korea took effect in 2012, with agreement on eliminating 95 percent of each nation's tariffs on goods within five years.

The European Union has completed final negotiations on a free-trade agreement with Singapore.

Under such circumstances, as a key Asian trading partner, China also needs to step up negotiations, and could consider establishing a free-trade agreement with the US, Wei said. The US replaced the EU as China's biggest trading partner in 2012.

More credit financing support will be given to enterprises, but unlike in the past, when such financing was frequently used to develop affiliated businesses such as real estate, more supervisory measures will be put in place, Wei said.

Enterprises will also see significant reductions in costs for logistics, customs, transportation and quarantine.

Dampened by weak demand in major markets, some of China's export-reliant companies have improved their innovative capability and exploration in new markets. However, the external environment remains pessimistic for China's imports and exports.

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