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Increased US Imports Seen on the Horizon
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Trade experts expect China to allow in more imports from the United States to address the growing trade imbalance between the two countries.


Experts said they expected technology imports to receive particular attention.


The trade volume between China and the United States hit US$262.7 billion last year. However, far from cheering the record-setting figure, trade officials from both sides have expressed concern over the size of the yawning gap.


The United States topped both the European Union and Hong Kong last year to become the source of China's largest trade surplus. There is some disagreement about the size of the gap between the two countries. Chinese customs officials said it amounted to US$144.27 billion last year, while US customs said US$230 billion.


To reduce the size of the gap, Chinese government officials have been calling for more imports, particularly from major surplus sources like the United States.


The commerce ministry hinted earlier this year that China may lower import tariffs or remove some import restrictions to support imports.


According to the ministry's spokesperson, China will focus on imports of key equipment, advanced technology and resources.


Technology and equipment imports from the United States are expected to account for most of the increase.


Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the commerce ministry's research institute, said China needed machinery and electronic equipment from the US.


He added that it was up to the US government to ease restrictions on exports of such goods to China.


Although US companies make technology and equipment that China needs, US technology exports to China have lagged behind those from the European Union in the past couple of years because of restrictions on over 2,000 categories of goods that can be shipped here.


In the most recent talks between China and the US on this issue, Chinese officials recommended that the US drop one third to a half of its restrictions, which they said were totally "out of date".


Zhao Yumin, another expert at the commerce ministry's research institute, said China would eventually need to import more agricultural products from the US because Chinese farmers face increasing production costs.


Imports in other sectors are expected to increase, as well. The China chamber of commerce of metal, minerals and chemical importers and exporters will "make every effort" to increase imports from the United States, Chairman Chen Haoran said.


He added that China already runs a trade deficit in this area.


"We will consider buying made-in-the-US products first if they are priced at the same level as goods from other countries," he said.


The trade gap between China and the United States has resulted not only in a growing number of trade disputes, but also calls for China to revaluate the renminbi and threats of retaliatory tariffs on imports from China.


The US has urged China to increase domestic demand for imports, though Mei said China's trade surplus with the US is the result of high spending and low saving in the US.


He also warned that policies aimed at restricting Chinese exports would have little impact on the growth of the trade surplus in the short term.


"The short-term results of such policies sometimes conflict with the medium- and long-term expectations," he said.


For example, the tax rebate reduction announced last September pushed China's monthly trade surplus to a record high in October and November as exporters tried to take advantage of the better rates.


(China Daily February 13, 2007)


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