China's vice-minister of foreign trade and economic co-operation has cautioned against optimism over China's exports this year despite a big jump in the first quarter.
Vice-Minister Zhou Keren said: "Although the US and world economy show signs of recovery at present, domestic exporters are still confronted with difficult external economic conditions."
He said the difficulties were largely brought about by unprecedented uncertainty in world economic development after the September 11 terror attack in the United States.
"The slowdown in global economic growth has more negative far-reaching effects on China's exports than the 1997 Southeast Asian financial tumult. It's now more difficult to predict where the world economy is heading than at any time before," he said.
The vice-minister said the situation is made worse by the revival of global trade protectionism such as the controversial US tariffs on steel imports and the European Union ban on products of animal origin from China.
"Trade officials and trading companies must beware of blind optimism over the growth of China's exports this year although the volume of foreign trade grew at a pretty good pace in the first quarter," he told reporters during the ongoing 91st China Export Commodities Fair in South China's Guangdong Province.
China's foreign trade grew by 7.7 percent year on year in the first quarter to US$122 billion, according to Chinese customs statistics.
Zhou said the good results were achieved on the back of good domestic economic growth, an improved external economic environment and stable world demand for consumer products.
He forecast a conservative zero growth for China's exports this year but said it should be possible to push the growth rate higher through market diversification and the successful hosting of a series of fairs.
Zhou identified Russia, India and central and eastern European countries as potential large-scale importers from China at a relatively rapid growth rate. He called for domestic companies to explore these markets.
The fair has been held in April and October every year since 1957 and is organized by the China Foreign Trade Center.
Hu Chusheng - director-general of the trade center - said the fair usually made up one-third of China's exports other than the processing trade in the past.
He predicted better results this year as a result of this month's fair being divided into two shows - from April 15 to 20 and from April 25 to 30.
(China Daily April 16, 2002)