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 China's Hu vows to tackle trade imbalances

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PostSubject: China's Hu vows to tackle trade imbalances   Sun Dec 11, 2011 2:59 pm

Dec 11, 2011 05:02 EST

China's Hu vows to tackle trade imbalances

Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged Sunday to resolve trade imbalances with nations that have huge deficits with the Asian powerhouse, as China marked the tenth anniversary of its accession to the WTO.

In a speech in Beijing, Hu said China was not intentionally seeking a trade surplus -- a bugbear for major trade partners such as the United States who say Beijing's exports are cheap because its currency is undervalued.

"We will strengthen economic cooperation with countries that have substantial trade deficits with China, and work together with them to gradually resolve trade imbalances," Hu said in the Great Hall of the People.

"We will... actively expand imports to drive the transformation of the foreign trade pattern in a bid to promote the basic balance of international payments. We do not deliberately pursue a trade surplus."

The United States has recently stepped up criticism of what it says are unfair Chinese trade practices, in the face of deep US voter anger over high unemployment and the state of the economy.

Some US lawmakers have criticised China's yuan currency, which they say is grossly undervalued, and therefore fuels the US trade deficit and costs US jobs.

US President Barack Obama -- striving for re-election next November -- said last month that Beijing had not done enough to allow the yuan to reach a fair market value and called on a now "grown up" China to act more responsibly.

But last week, Vice President Xi Jinping -- widely touted to take over from Hu in 2013 -- urged the United States to "curb its tendency of politicising economic issues".

On Saturday, official data showed China's trade surplus had narrowed to $14.5 billion in November from $17 billion in October.

The nation's overall imports outstripped expectations, expanding by 22.1 percent to $159.94 billion in November, up from the $140.46 billion recorded a month earlier, according to the data.

Exports also rose year-on-year, but analysts said the rate of increase was slowing, further fuelling concerns that China's export-driven economy will be heavily affected by turmoil in the key markets of Europe and the United States.

To counter this, Beijing is pushing to expand its domestic demand.

Hu said Sunday that total retail sales in China were expected to grow at an annual rate of over 15 percent in the next five years and reach 32 trillion yuan ($5 trillion) in 2015, making it one of the world's largest domestic markets.

"It is estimated that China's total imports will exceed eight trillion dollars in the next five years, which will bring enormous opportunities to countries around the world," he said.

Hu acknowledged that China's decade-long membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) had helped power its blistering growth, and said it had also benefited its trading partners.

Since it joined the WTO on December 11, 2001, China has seen its GDP almost quadruple and exports and imports rise nearly fivefold. The Asian powerhouse's share of global trade has also jumed from 4.3 to 10.4 percent.

But analysts say many obstacles remain for foreign firms wanting to invest in the world's second-largest economy, in key sectors such as renewable energy.

Hu said China would be more "proactive" in opening up to the outside world, and pinpointed the nation's coastal and Western regions as areas where foreign firms should invest.

But he also called on China's trading partners to implement measures to help the Asian giant, such as relaxing their controls on high-tech exports to China and facilitating Chinese firms' outward investment.

Source: AFP Global Edition


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