China foreign trade growth to slow, exports 'grim'

January 14, 2012 - 3:35 AM

BEIJING (AP) — China is expecting foreign trade growth to slow this year to around 10 percent amid a grim outlook for exports, a state news agency reported Saturday.

The world's second-largest economy's foreign trade will be hurt by weak external demand, increasing trade competition, a stronger Chinese currency and other factors, the official Xinhua News Agency cited an official from the country's top economic planning agency as saying.

"We expect more difficulties in foreign trade and the export situation will be grim in 2012, especially in the first half of the year," said Zhang Xiaoqiang, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, according to Xinhua.

Last year, China's foreign trade grew 22.5 percent to $3.6 trillion, according to data from the official General Administration of Customs released earlier in the week.

The data also showed that exports in December rose 13.4 percent, down slightly from November's growth rate. In a new that sign the economy is slowing, import growth showed an unexpectedly sharp drop, falling to 11.8 percent, barely above half the previous month's gain.

On Saturday, Zhang told a forum in Beijing that improving tax and insurance policies and providing financial support for small trading companies could help stabilize export growth, Xinhua said.

China's relatively robust growth has been a rare bright spot for a struggling global economy. But growth has slowed in recent months after Beijing tightened lending and investment curbs to prevent overheating.

A slump in demand for Chinese goods abroad has prompted the government to reverse course and promise to help struggling exporters and shore up growth with more bank lending and other measures. It is unclear what impact the measures will have.

Chinese export growth has fallen steadily since August as Europe's debt crisis and high U.S. unemployment hurt demand. But it has stayed in double digits, showing the competitive strength of Chinese exporters in global markets.