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China's Strong Growth a Positive Force in Asia: WB Official

China's continued strong economic growth is a major positive force in Asia, said Jemal-ud-din Kassum, a World Bank (WB) vice president in charge of the East Asia and Pacific Region, Sunday.


As a huge engine of growth and import demand, China offers more opportunities for other economies in the region following its accession to the World Trade Organization, Kassum said at the 2003 annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), which opened Sunday at Boao of southernmost China's Hainan Province.


In the first five months of this year, exports to the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong from the rest of East Asia grew by about one-third and contributed about one-third of their overall export growth, he noted.


China's imports from and its trade deficits with the rest of East Asia have also been soaring. According to Kassum, the Chinese mainland's combined trade deficit with the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Taiwan Province jumped from around US$36 billion in mid 2002 to US$53 billion in mid 2003, which almost offset its trade surplus with the United States.


China's trade balances with Japan and South East Asia are also showing growing deficits, he noted.


While the global economy is picking up, capital flows are returning to East Asia's bond and equity markets, providing abundant liquidity. Foreign exchange reserves by eight leading East Asian economies other than Japan have more than doubled -- from US$400 billion in January 1997 to almost US$900 billion today.


However, he pointed out, if the growth and stability of the past is to be maintained, progress must be made in the improvement of investment environment, financial and corporate restructuring, anti-corruption efforts, government governance and investment to infrastructure.


He said, the BFA Secretariat and the WB have agreed to collaborate on a joint program of economic studies on regional cooperation in Asia. They have also agreed to build networks of expertise around the world to conduct such studies and to use them to produce practical recommendations for policy makers in Asia.


"We look forward to a productive relationship together, to capture the benefits of global trade and financial market liberalization through regional cooperation in Asia," he said, adding that this is especially important because the setback at the Cancun trade talks -- with the danger of protectionist interests lurking in many parts of the world -- threatens to cause damage to the global trading system.


Regional progress will help ensure that Asia keeps moving in the direction of global competitiveness and higher productivity, Kassum said.

(Xinhua News Agency November 3, 2003)

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