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Eyes Open at Trade Deficits

Despite its healthy development momentum, China should keep close eyes on the issue of the intensifying trade imbalance, said a foreign trade official Thursday.

China saw a trade deficit of US$8.40 billion in the first quarter of this year with the deficit in February surging to US$7.90 billion.

Pressure will intensify for the nation to keep a trade balance, remarked Li Rongcan, deputy director of the planning and financial department of the Ministry of Commerce at a news conference on China's foreign trade development report Thursday.

The price hike of energy and raw materials and China's export tariff rebate cut practice will hurt the competitiveness of many Chinese export commodities, he said.

And soaring imports due to the nation's overheated investment, price rises of global import commodities, and the reduction of import tariffs, will become another factor frustrating the trade balance, he added.

Other issues that should arouse the attention of foreign trade authorities are pressure on lower tariffs minimized non-tariff measures, as agreed in the WTO entry promise, as well as trade friction due to the international trade protectionism, he said.

China's general tariff level will fall to 10.4 percent, lower than most developing countries, and non-tariff measures are decreasing, he said, leaving tertiary industries, agriculture and manufacturing industries including the auto industry in a less favorable position to compete with their global rivals.

And the intensifying trade friction will also challenge Chinese enterprises in their attempts to crack global market, he said.

Domestic enterprises faced 11 anti-dumping litigations and investigations of labor or intellectual property right protection measures in the January-March period.

The total value of those cases topped US$330 million, or 15.6 times as much as a year ago, official statistics indicate.

China-made textiles, chemicals and electrical appliances are most threatened.

Nonetheless, he said, China's foreign trade will stay on track, generally speaking.

The world's dynamic economic development drive, the State's promise to pay previous tariff rebate arrears and not to default on new tariff rebates, and booming private enterprises will all contribute to a sustained growth of the nation's export business in 2004, he said.

According to foreign trade report estimates, China will realize total imports and exports worth US$1,000 billion in 2004, a rise of 17 percent from a year ago.

Total exports will rise 15 percent to US$505 billion with imports growing 20 percent to US$495 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of US$10 billion.
(People's Daily May 12, 2004)

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