China's trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) hit a record high of US$78.25 billion in 2003, surging by 42.8 percent year-on-year, the Chinese customs said Sunday.
China's import jumped by 51.7 percent to US$47.33 billion and export grew 31.1 percent to US$30.93 billion, with a trade deficit of US$16.4 billion, according to statistics of the General Administration of Customs.
Xu Changwen, head of the Asian and African studies department of the Commerce Ministry's institute of international trade and economic cooperation, said China's increasing imports of raw material and parts and components is the major reason for the trade deficit.
China mainly bought machinery products and parts, animal fat and plant oil, and mineral and agriculture products from ASEAN countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia; and sold machinery and electronic products, chemicals, fabrics and garments.
The implementation of plans to build the China-ASEAN free trade area (FTA), to be established in 2010, also fueled bilateral trade, according to trade experts.
"The two sides have had substantial negotiation on the construction of FTA and some pilot projects have been conducted, which spurred bilateral trade to some extent," said Zhang Xiaoji, director of the Foreign Economic Relations Department of the Development Research Center, a State Council think-tank.
"With China's soaring economy and recovering ASEAN economy, bilateral trade will boom and China is becoming a new drive for the East Asia economy," Zhang said.
(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2004)