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Trade surplus no more a key issue
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When the Sino-US Strategic Economic Dialogue was launched in 2006, the biannual talks co-chaired by the then Vice-Premier Wu Yi and US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was expected to address long-term issues.

Narrowing China's trade surplus with the US was among the core issues then. This year, however, as Paulson meets the new Vice-Premier Wang Qishan today in Annapolis, Maryland, for the dialogue, pressures from trade imbalance have considerably eased, a trend experts predict to continue in the coming months.

China's exports to the US stood at $74.31 billion in the first four months of this year, according to the latest statistics from the General Administration of Customs. The figure reflects an increase of only 6.9 percent year-on-year, down 12.4 percentage points from the previous year.

Over the same period, China's imports from the US increased 25.6 percent to hit $28.04 billion, 7.9 percentage points faster than last year.

Figures from the US side show China's surplus against the US dropped 12.4 percent to $16.1 billion in March - the lowest in two years.

Experts attribute the decline in China's trade surplus to the US subprime mortgage crisis and the consequent economic slowdown.

"The US domestic demand is decreasing as a result of the subprime crisis," said Li Jiang with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

China has also taken a number of measures to curb exports of resource-intensive and polluting products, added Hu Yanni, an analyst at CITIC China Securities Co Ltd.

And, imports are rising steadily as well. As the current economic dialogue gets under way, a Chinese business delegation is reportedly heading for the US to purchase US goods valued at $20 billion.

Experts agree US demand will not see any big improvement as long as it does not find a solution to the subprime problem.

Li predicted China's exports to the US will not increase as rapidly as in the past two years given the impact of the economic slowdown.

"The growth in exports to the US is not expected to exceed 10 percent in the latter half of this year," he said. "The trade gap is unlikely to see a big increase from last year."

US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez told China Daily last month that the most important trade issue China and the US need to address is the pressure for economic protectionism.

"I believe we are both facing similar issues in our own domestic markets. Some issues may be different, but I think the one we have in common is that we both face pressure for economic protectionism and isolationism," Gutierrez had said.

(China Daily June 17, 2008)


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