Expert: China to become world's 2nd largest trader

China will this year replace Germany as the world's second largest trader with 2.1 trillion US dollars in foreign trade and may overtake the world's largest trader, the United States, by the end of the decade, says a senior Chinese researcher.

"China maintained a growth rate of more than 20 percent in foreign trade in the first quarter and is likely to maintain the momentum throughout the year," said Li Yushi, vice president of the Research Institute of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce. Despite a growth rate that declined to 6.9 percent in March, foreign trade in the first three months totaled 457.7 billion US dollars, up 23.3 percent year-on-year.

Exports reached 252.1 billion US dollars, up 27.8 percent, while imports were valued at 205.7 billion US dollars, up 18.2 percent, according to figures released by the Chinese customs.


While the Ministry of Commerce projected foreign trade to grow by about 10 percent a year between 2006 and 2010, Li's institute predicts the growth rate will be between 12 and 15 percent.


"Based on these predictions, we can tell that China will overtake the United States to be the world's largest trader in 2010," Li told a seminar on China's foreign trade prospects in Guangzhou.

China started to lower export tax rebates on numerous items last September to help bring down its trade surplus, said Li." The government is also developing policies aimed at expanding imports by encouraging domestic companies to import state-of-the-art equipment and technologies."

China's soaring exports in 2006 expanded its trade surplus to a record 178 billion dollars, up 74 percent from the previous record of 102 billion dollars set in 2005.

China's trade surplus for the first two months of the year hit 39.6 billion US dollars, more than the entire first quarter of last year

In March, however, the surplus dropped to 6.87 billion US dollars, dipping below the 10 billion US dollar mark for the first time since March 2006.

The World Trade Organization said in a report last week that China's product exports started to exceed those of the United States in the second half of 2006, but figures for the the entire year show China ranked third in exports, after Germany and the United States.

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