China said yesterday it faces a bleak foreign trade environment next year due to ongoing global economic weakness, as the Asian export powerhouse appears set to miss this year’s trade growth target.
Beijing set its target for total trade growth this year at 10 percent, but admitted recently that it was unlikely to be achieved, blaming sluggish overseas demand, particularly in Japan and the debt-laden eurozone.
In the first 11 months of the year, total trade rose just 5.8 percent from the same period in last year to US$3.5 trillion, with exports up 7.3 percent to US$1.8 trillion, official data showed.
Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang (沈丹陽) said at a regular news conference yesterday that exporters in the world’s second-largest economy would probably have another tough year.
“Looking into next year, the global economic situation will continue to be complicated and uncertain, world growth is expected to remain low and trade protectionism in various forms is likely to strengthen,” he said. “Therefore ... there is no reason for optimism about China’s foreign trade environment and barriers that could keep foreign trade growth from rising steadily remain big.”
Shen said that trade friction between the world’s largest exporter and its major trade partners intensified this year, noting there have been 53 trade probes against China this year worth US$24.2 billion.
Last year, China came under 69 trade investigations worth US$5.9 billion, according to previous government figures.
Meanwhile, foreign direct investment (FDI) in China fell last month for a sixth straight month, the government said yesterday, with the outlook expected to remain weak next year due to global uncertainties.
Overseas companies invested US$8.29 billion in factories and other projects in China last month, down 5.4 percent from a year ago, Shen said.
The drop added to a long downward trend that began in November last year. FDI has declined every month since then except for May, when it eked out a marginal 0.05 percent gain.
For the first 11 months of the year, FDI was down 3.6 percent year on year at US$100.02 billion, Shen said.
The government has blamed the slump on the slowdown in global economic growth, the prolonged European debt crisis, and rising costs and weak demand at home.
“In 2013, the size of China’s FDI will remain stable and will not fall sharply,” Shen said. “But the general environment will remain severe due to external uncertainties.”
China, the world’s second-largest economy, was once a magnet for foreign investment, but the weak global economy as well as the Asian giant’s own woes have curbed enthusiasm.
The Chinese economy has slowed for seven consecutive quarters, expanding 7.4 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30, its worst performance since the first quarter of 2009.
However, economic indicators for the current fourth quarter including manufacturing activity, industrial production and retail sales have shown improvement leading to optimism that economic growth could be set to improve.
Investment from countries in the debt-laden EU decreased 2.9 percent on year in the January to November period to US$5.81 billion, according to the ministry’s data.
Bucking the downward trend, however, was investment from the US, which increased 6.3 percent to US$2.91 billion in the same period.
In contrast, China’s investment abroad has surged sharply this year after slowing last year owing to a weak global economic recovery and financial turmoil in Europe and the US.
Outbound direct investment in non-financial sectors in the first 11 months of the year totaled US$62.5 billion, up 25 percent from the same period last year, Shen said.
Last year, the figure stood at US$60.1 billion, up just 1.8 percent year on year, previous official data showed.
China has set goals to increase overseas direct investment at an average annual rate of 17 percent through 2015 to US$150 billion by then.