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Trade surplus increases 47% in 2007
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China's trade surplus increased more than 47 percent year-on-year in 2007 but experts expect growth to slow down this year.

The surplus hit $262.2 billion last year, up 47.7 percent from the previous year, according to statistics released on Friday by the General Administration of Customs.

"Year-on-year growth in monthly imports has exceeded 25 percent for three months in a row, which contributed to the slowdown in surplus growth," the customs said. "And the country's soaring trade surplus eased a bit in the fourth quarter last year, with imports catching up and exports slowing down."

The government has taken various measures to curb the growing surplus, such as scrapping tax rebates on high-polluting exports and imposing export tariffs. As such measures continue to have an effect this year, experts believe the gap between exports and imports will narrow gradually.

"As a result of policy adjustment, exports in such sectors as steel and textiles are expected to drop markedly," said Zhang Yansheng, director of the International Economic Research Institute affiliated to the National Development and Reform Commission.

He predicted China's net exports of crude steel would decline to 36 million tons this year from 53.1 million tons in 2007.

And pursuing a "soft landing" in terms of trade will be a priority of the government's work this year, Zhang said.

However, Citigroup economist Huang Yiping argued China's exports should continue to grow strongly so long as the United States avoids a recession.

"We are not expecting the surplus to decline substantially," Huang said. "We are still expecting the overall trade surplus to rise a bit further" this year.

Exports reached $1.22 trillion last year, up 25.7 percent from a year earlier, while imports hit $955.8 billion, up 20.8 percent.

According to the customs, since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, its foreign trade volume maintained over 20-percent growth for six successive years.

The EU topped China's trade partners in 2007, followed by the United States and Japan.

(China Daily January 12, 2008)

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