In an attempt to achieve more balanced international trade, China will soon allow domestic companies to freely import a wide range of materials and products.
From April 1 onward, Chinese firms will see formerly crucial import license lifted for imported products in 338 categories, the Ministry of Commerce's foreign trade department revealed on its website yesterday.
The list of goods includes steel products and plastic materials but also extends to some machinery and electronic products.
Chinese traders used to need to get an "automatic import license" for these products, meaning they do not need to get official approval but their imports will have to be recorded at the ministry.
The new move is part of a slew of operations by the central government to achieve a more balanced trading plateau, especially in terms of imports and exports.
To prevent the trade surplus from widening any further, the government's measures carefully encourage a rise in imports while restructuring the exports market. In so doing, late last year, China began scrapping or lowering tax rebates on energy-consuming or polluting exported products.
In April, the Canton Fair (China Import and Export Fair), China's largest trade event, will inaugurate its imports section, confining to the pages of history its previous exports-only focus.
Despite these encouraging efforts, the first two months of this year still saw China's trade surplus leap to US$39.64 billion.
Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng on Monday said the measures will impact positively upon the trade surplus in later months. "I think things will change in the coming months as import-encouraging and trade-facilitating measures take effect," he said.
Gao further warned against expecting a rapid trade balance due to the country's vast trade figures. He also explained that despite China's mounting trade surplus with global economic powerhouses, such as the US or the EU, foreign investors reap the benefits of this situation above domestic firms.
Chinese top officials have repeatedly denied China is pursuing a strategy of trade surplus, saying that the country is trying to improve export quality to upgrade its foreign trade structure.
(China Daily March 28, 2007)