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Foreign Trade Set to Stagger: Expert
Chinese experts remain optimistic about the country's trade prospects this year but expect overall year-on-year growth to be sluggish.

Moderate rebound of the global economy and increased strength in China's export capacity will continue to bolster export growth, said Zhang Xiaoji, a senior researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council.

With contributing factors that include a larger competitive base and the reviving trade protectionism on the global market, China's export growth is expected to slow down from last year's 22.3 per cent to between 5 per cent and 10 per cent, he said.

Wang Yiming, a senior researcher with the Macroeconomics Studies Institute of the State Development Planning Commission, is cautiously optimistic, setting the growth rate for this year's exports between 12 per cent and 15 per cent.

Although the international economic environment will improve this year, it is rare that one country's foreign trade grows more than 20 per cent for two consecutive years, he said.

Wang pointed out that the possible US war against Iraq poses uncertainties and that the close-to-saturation status of many of China's traditionally advantageous commodities such as consumer products, textiles, chemicals, machinery and electronic products on the global market makes further growth difficult.

He also mentioned that the supportive effects of China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on export growth will ebb this year.

Zhang Feng, a researcher with the State Information Center, fixed the growth rate for this year's exports at around 10 per cent.

He said the rapid increase in imports for the processing trade in the second half of last year and the likeliness of the US dollar to remain weak this year are conductive signs.

But he also agreed that export growth is unlikely to retain last year's momentum this year because Chinese commodities are susceptible to WTO-allowed trade compensatory measures with the pressure of export tax rebates also taking a toll on the fiscal budget.

China's exports rose 22.3 per cent year-on-year to US$325.57 billion last year as total foreign trade jumped 21.8 per cent to a record high US$620.79 billion, Chinese customs statistics show.

Trade experts said the better-than-expected performance, set against the backdrop of a gloomy world economy, was largely due to a well-faring domestic economy, China's increasingly opening up policy, depreciation of the US dollar, international corporations transferring manufacturing to China and the effects of China's WTO accession.

(China Daily February 10, 2003)

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