Minister focuses on expanding foreign trade

Updated: 2013-03-22 07:02

By Ding Qingfen and Li Jiabao (China Daily)

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Minister focuses on expanding foreign trade

Commerce chief confident despite pressure on export environment

The new commerce minister expressed confidence on Thursday that China will boost foreign trade in 2013 despite pressure on exports.

Trade growth will be "no less than GDP growth," promised Gao Hucheng, who was promoted from vice-minister on Sunday.

China will also strive to achieve 14.5 percent growth in domestic retail volume this year, Gao said.

At the National People's Congress annual session, a GDP growth target of 7.5 percent was set for 2013.

Owing to "global uncertainties," the premier's Government Work Report did not specify an annual goal for foreign trade, although the National Development and Reform Commission, the top economic planning body, outlined 8 percent growth for trade in a separate report to the national legislature.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China's retail volume was 21 trillion yuan ($3.3 trillion) in 2012, up by 14.3 percent from 2011.

Gao also said the nation is committed to stimulating domestic consumption this year and will also stick to the "opening-up policy", welcoming foreign direct investment in high-tech and research sectors.

Gao made the remarks in an interview after meeting with Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization on Thursday in Beijing.

China passed Germany as the second-largest exporter in 2009, and it overtook the US as the largest foreign trade nation last year.

But due to the spreading European debt crisis, which dampened global demand for Chinese goods, China missed the target of 10 percent growth in foreign trade.

Looking ahead, "China is severely challenged in terms of expanding exports this year. There are many uncertainties with the nation's foreign trade," Gao said.

"This year's target will be stabilizing external demand, improving the quality of manufacturing and adjusting the industrial structure," he said.

Chen Deming, the former minister of commerce, said at a news briefing during the annual two sessions that the nation's foreign trade this year will be slightly better than last.

China's foreign trade in the first two months of the year gained 14.2 percent year-on-year, compared with 7.3 percent in 2012, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Wei Jianguo, former vice-minister of commerce, said 2013 is a severe year for Gao and the ministry, especially given the grim external situation.

"The ministry will have to be fully prepared for rising trade friction," he said.

Premier Li Keqiang said the highest priority for China will be to maintain sustainable economic growth.

According to Li Xunlei, deputy CEO of Haitong Securities Co Ltd in Shanghai, China will have to shift its growth model to consumption-led, and cut supply chain costs.

"China will continue to welcome foreign investment, especially encouraging them to go into the high-tech and R&D in central and western parts of China," said Gao.

Gao said that the multilateral trade system led by the WTO is the cornerstone of global free trade and cannot be replaced just by regional trade.

"Any country can selectively conduct regional trade talks and cooperation, but this is only complementary to the multilateral trade system," said Gao.

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(China Daily 03/22/2013 page1)