Mon, Dec 12, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Hu vows to tackle trade imbalances

‘ECONOMIC COOPERATION’:Beijing is now trying to expand domestic demand to counter slowing exports, and its imports outstripped expectations, growing 22%

AFP, BEIJING

A man takes a photograph yesterday of his daughter in front of an 11.9m tall Christmas tree made of 320 bicycles at a shopping mall in Shenyang, China.

Photo: Reuters

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) pledged yesterday to resolve trade imbalances with nations that have huge deficits with the Asian powerhouse, as China marked the tenth anniversary of its accession to the WTO.

In a speech in Beijing, Hu said China was not intentionally seeking a trade surplus — a bugbear for major trade partners such as the US who say Beijing’s exports are cheap because its currency is undervalued.

“We will strengthen economic cooperation with countries that have substantial trade deficits with China, and work together with them to gradually resolve trade imbalances,” Hu said in the Great Hall of the People. “We will ... actively expand imports to drive the transformation of the foreign trade pattern in a bid to promote the basic balance of international payments. We do not deliberately pursue a trade surplus.”

The US has recently stepped up criticism of what it says are unfair Chinese trade practices, in the face of deep US voter anger over high unemployment and the state of the economy.

Some US lawmakers have -criticized China’s yuan currency, which they say is grossly undervalued and therefore fuels the US trade deficit and costs US jobs.

US President Barack Obama — striving for re-election next November — said last month that Beijing had not done enough to allow the yuan to reach a fair market value and called on a now “grown up” China to act more responsibly.

However, last week, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) — widely touted to take over from Hu in 2013 — urged the US to “curb its tendency of politicizing economic issues.”

On Saturday, official data showed China’s trade surplus had narrowed to US$14.5 billion last month from US$17 billion in October.

The nation’s overall imports outstripped expectations, expanding by 22.1 percent to US$159.94 billion last month, up from the US$140.46 billion recorded a month earlier, according to the data.

Exports also rose year-on-year, but analysts said the rate of increase was slowing, further fueling concerns that China’s export-driven economy will be heavily affected by turmoil in the key markets of Europe and the US.

To counter this, Beijing is pushing to expand its domestic demand.

Hu said yesterday that total retail sales in China were expected to grow at an annual rate of more than 15 percent in the next five years, and reach 32 trillion yuan (US$5 trillion) in 2015, making it one of the world’s largest domestic markets.

“It is estimated that China’s total imports will exceed US$8 trillion in the next five years, which will bring enormous opportunities to countries around the world,” he said.

Hu said that China’s decade-long membership of the WTO had helped power its blistering growth, and said it had also benefited its trading partners.

However, analysts say many obstacles remain for foreign firms wanting to invest in the world’s second-largest economy, in key sectors such as renewable energy.

Hu said China would be more “proactive” in opening up to the outside world, and pinpointed the nation’s coastal and Western regions as areas where foreign firms should invest.

However, he also called on China’s trading partners to implement measures to help the Asian giant, such as relaxing their controls on high-tech exports to China and facilitating Chinese firms’ outward investment.

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