China is likely to become the world's third largest trading power by the end of 2004, said the Ministry of Commerce.
According to a report jointly published on Friday by the ministry and its think tank, the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, China is expected to chalk up a trade volume of US$1.1 trillion for the full year and rank it third in the world. That will be an increase of more than 30 percent year on year.
China was the fourth largest trading power by the end of 2003, behind only the United States, Germany and Japan.
Despite the impressive gains, analysts cautioned officials should give higher priority to the sustainable development of its foreign trade and the competitiveness of its exports.
"It is an urgent task to improve China's export structure," said Fan Ying, a professor at Beijing's China Foreign Affairs University.
She called for trade officials to put more efforts in encouraging the exportation of high-value-added and branded products.
"Otherwise, the country's foreign trade and exports will not continue to proceed on a fast and healthy track," Fan claimed.
Predicting the trade scenario in 2005, the report said the growth rate will slow down to about 15 percent due to a combination of factors.
It cited an unstable global economy, rising friction with trade partners, and problems in implementing tax rebates for exporters as key challenges in maintaining the robust growth in exports.
"Because prices for energy and raw materials are continuing to rise, and supply of coal, electricity, oil and transportation continue to be tight... it will be very difficult to sustain the rapid growth of foreign trade in 2005," it said.
As for imports, Fan said their growth rate is likely to surpass that of exports.
"China's economic growth will remain robust in 2005," she said, believing it will drive up the nation's appetite for raw materials such as steel, iron ore, rubber and cotton.
And falling tariffs on an array of products and wider opening of its sectors in line with China's commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will also cause an increasing number of foreign goods into China, she added.
The ministry also released October trade figures on the same day, which showed that the country notched up a trade surplus of US$7.09 billion last month, the largest monthly trade surplus in 2004.
October exports rose 28.5 percent to US$52.5 billion, while imports increased 29.3 percent to US$45.4 billion.
Combined the figures from January to October, China has reached a surplus of US$10.97 billion.
The first 10 months witnessed a 35.8 percent rise in the foreign trade to come at US$926.47 billion.
Among it, imports surged 37.2 percent to US$457.75 billion with exports jumping 34.5 percent and hitting US$468.72 billion.
The first four months of the year saw a trade deficit of US$10.95 billion for China, but from September the figure went into the black thanks to consecutive surpluses since May.
Analysts forecast that the full year will see a small surplus.
(China Daily November 13, 2004)