Services set to give China a global role

Updated: 2013-05-31 07:13

By Li Jiabao (China Daily)

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China has long been known as the world's major manufacturing powerhouse.

But as the country restructures its economic growth model, it is poised to emerge as a major trader in services, participants at a leading trade fair said in Beijing.

They also urged more reforms and opening-up to further unleash the potential of China's services.

"China's services sector as well as trade in services are facing historic opportunities," Vice-Minister of Commerce Jiang Zengwei said during the second China International Fair of Trade in Services, held in Beijing from May 28 to June 1.

China is the world's third-largest trader in services, the third-largest services importer and the fifth-largest exporter. In 2012, China's total trade in services reached $470.6 billion, accounting for 5.6 percent of the world's total, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

The first quarter of this year saw China's overall trade in services rise 14.4 percent from a year earlier to $120.1 billion, with exports gaining 7 percent year-on-year to $46.5 billion. Imports jumped 19.7 percent to $73.6 billion, yielding a trade deficit of $27.1 billion, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Tourism, transportation services and trade in consultations accounted for more than 70 percent of China's trade in services in the January-March period.

"China has two important strengths in boosting trade in services, the leadership's determination or strategic vision and the large population. The government plays a very significant role in expanding trade in services and China's population is highly educated, which is the very basis for growing trade in services," said Guillermo Valles Galmes, director of the Division in International Trade in Goods, Services and Commodities at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

In late 2012, China published the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) for services sector development and outlined that the contribution of the sector to the country's GDP growth will increase by 4 percentage points by 2015 from 43.2 percent in 2010, and trade in services will reach $600 billion.

"China is doing well in several sectors including construction services. This is crucially important for the infrastructure development in many other countries," Galmes said.

"But many other drivers are still needed, including entrepreneurship, supervision ability and freedom of trade and market access," he added.

China plays a leading role in the world's exports of creative products and services, including advertisement, recreation and research and development, and its exports tripled from 2002 to 2011, according to a recent report from the UNCTAD.

"China is clear about the importance of services in transforming a developing economy into a developed one and is seeking a leap on the services economy. China is a leading country in manufacturing and is less developed in services, and the major task is pursuing high-quality economic growth with services," Galmes said.

Qiu Hong, assistant minister of commerce, said that strengthening China's services and trade in services will promote the country's strategic economic restructuring and reduce reliance on energy and resources as well as relieve the structural challenge in the employment of graduates, who numbered about 7 million in 2013.

(China DailyUSA 05/31/2013 page5)