China witnessed its third consecutive monthly trade surplus as July's exports surged nearly 34 percent, according to the General Administration of Customs.
But the trade sheet did not go into the black, still recording a deficit of US$4.9 billion.
Customs said that total exports from January to July reached US$309.1 billion, rising 35.5 percent, while imports leapt 41.3 percent to US$314.0 billion.
Customs did not provide the figure for July alone.
But exports in July amounted to US$51.0 billion, up 33.9 percent year-on-year, while imports surged 34.3 to US$49.1 billion.
The growth rates marked a slowdown from the year to June, when exports rose 46.4 percent and imports by 51.0 percent.
The monthly trade sheet recorded a small surplus of US$2.0 billion, the third surplus in a row this year. The June surplus was US$1.8 billion and May's hit US$2.1 billion.
Analysts forecast China's trade deficit to ease in the coming months as economic cooling measures curb demand for imported machinery and commodities.
Li Yushi, an expert from the Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, attributed the continued rise in exports to increased spending in the recovering economies of the United States, Japan and Europe. The government's payment of all outstanding tax rebates owed to exporters also contributed to growth, he added.
But the rise in imports is still very steep, pointing to strong demand in the country and the limited impact of restrictive measures on some industries.
Only such industries as steel, real estate, cement and aluminum are problematic, said Li. Most others are healthy and need imports to feed their expansion.
Dynamic exports and growing domestic consumption can cushion the cool-down in selected industries and still buoy exports to China, Li added.
A Ministry of Commerce report said exports are expected to climb 15 percent in 2004 to US$505 billion, while imports are likely to surge 20 percent to US$495 billion.
That would produce a trade surplus of US$10 billion for the year, compared to US$25.5 billion 2003.
But trade restrictions and frequent criticism of China's low-cost products are hurting the country and proving to be a big concern for business.
In response, the government is pushing adjustments to the export mix by adding high-tech products. The customs figures indicate that these are paying off.
Exports of high-tech products jumped 58.3 percent to US$83.8 billion in the first seven months, accounting for 27.1 percent of China's total exports.
(China Daily, China.org.cn August 12, 2004)