China became a net coal importer as imports exceeded exports by
2.89 million tons in the first quarter, says a report issued by the
national economic planner on Monday.
From January to March, coal exports slumped 32 percent to 11.4
million tons while imports surged 61 percent to 14.3 million tons,
figures from the General Administration of Customs show.
In the first quarter last year, the country exported more coal
than it imported by 7.89 million tons.
"Last year saw a continuous sharp decline in coal exports, which
became less than imports for the first time this year," said the
"The change in tax policy last year played an important role,"
said Wu Chenghou, executive director of the Coal Sale and
In 2006, the government abolished export tax rebates on coal and
imposed export tariffs, while cutting import duties in an effort to
curb pollution and its fast growing trade surplus. In the first
quarter, the trade surplus hit US$46.44 billion, up 99.3 percent
over the same period last year. The surplus in April hit US$16.88
billion, more than double the figure of March yet still much below
February's US$23.7 billion.
The Ministry of Finance announced on May 21 further tariffs on
exports and cuts in import duties from June 1.
The likely duration of China's net importer status was still
unknown, said officials with the National Development and
"It's likely to continue as the government encourages coal
imports," said Wu.
China's exports of coal have risen since the 1990s, with net
exports up from 270 million tons in 1995 to 829 million tons in
(Xinhua News Agency May 29, 2007)