China said yesterday that it expects foreign trade to grow at a similar pace to the economy this year, indicating a feeble pickup from last year.
“Our target this year is ... to try to keep foreign trade increasing at a rate that is roughly in accordance with GDP growth,” Ministry of Commence spokesman Shen Danyang (沈丹陽) told reporters at a regular briefing without giving a specific figure.
China had declared it wanted to see trade rise by 10 percent last year, but last week announced growth of 6.2 percent for the period, missing the target. That was a marked slowdown from 2011, when trade increased 22.5 percent.
The world’s-second largest economy has yet to announce its goal for economic growth this year. GDP growth figures for the fourth quarter and all of last year are scheduled to be released tomorrow.
The median forecasts in surveys of economists by Agence France-Presse are for growth of 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter and 7.7 percent last year. Economists polled also expect the economy to grow 8 percent this year.
The government has mainly blamed a sluggish global economic recovery and rising trade protectionism for the country’s failure to meet its trade target last year.
Shen cautioned that the situation this year would remain challenging.
He said China still “faces so many difficulties,” including slow overseas demand and an unhealthy trade environment that would be “hard to turn around.”
“So the general situation for foreign trade will remain severe in 2013,” he said.
In related news, foreign direct investment (FDI) in China declined for the first time in three years last year, official data showed yesterday.
FDI, which excludes financial sectors, in China declined 3.7 percent to US$111.72 billion last year from 2011, the ministry said.
It slipped from an all-time high of US$116 billion in 2011 and was the first year-on-year decrease since 2009, according to previous figures.
The lion’s share of FDI into China came from 10 Asian countries and economies, including Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. That figure declined 4.8 percent last year to US$95.74 billion, the ministry said.
Investment from the EU fell 3.8 percent to US$6.11 billion, but inflows from the US gained 4.5 percent to US$3.12 billion and those from Japan increased 16.3 percent to US$7.38 billion, it said.
Shen downplayed the overall decline in FDI, saying a study by the ministry did not find foreign investment leaving the country on a large scale.
“We still actively encourage foreign investment”, he said, adding that China has been the largest foreign investment host nation among developing countries for 20 consecutive years.