BEIJING, Dec. 23 -- China's foreign trade is expected to slow down in 2011 to a growth rate of about 10 percent, compared with this year's 30 percent, sources with the Ministry of Commerce said.
Huo Jianguo, director of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation with the ministry, made the prediction on the sidelines of the annual commerce conference in Beijing on Wednesday.
While the growth of foreign trade is expected to slow, Commerce Minister Chen Deming emphasized that the government will increase efforts to expand imports in 2011 to narrow the nation's trade surplus, which has been criticized by the United States and the European Union in recent months.
"China will pay more attention to boosting imports to help balance foreign trade, while the nation aims to stabilize exports and grow its share in the global market," Chen said at the opening of the two-day conference.
China's trade surplus has been declining during the global financial crisis. In the first 11 months through November, its foreign trade surged 36.3 percent year-on-year to $2.68 trillion, but the trade surplus was down by 3.9 percent to $170 billion, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Chen said the nation's foreign trade for the whole of 2010 is expected to reach $2.9 trillion and the trade surplus to decrease slightly from last year to $190 billion.
"It is not easy to have the trade surplus controlled almost at the same level of last year while the trade volume has grown by big margins this year," Chen said.
Plans to expand domestic consumption, optimize the structure of foreign direct investment, encourage overseas direct investment, promote free-trade agreement strategy and appropriately address trade frictions are also included in the ministry's focus for 2011.
Although foreign direct investment is the major source of China's trade surplus, the US and EU have been pressuring the nation to allow the value of its currency to rise to narrow the trade surplus, as the monthly surplus has remained at around $20 billion during the past five months.
In September, China announced it was launching the import drive.
Wang Shouwen, director of department of foreign trade with the ministry, said China is considering diversifying the categories of imports and expanding imports from countries that have large trade deficits with China and lessdeveloped nations, as well as providing more assistance to importers.
"Growth of imports can balance trade and there is indeed huge potential to improve the imports," Wang said.
Mechanical and electrical goods make up a large part of China's imports, accounting for 48 percent annually. From January to November, the imports of mechanical and electrical goods grew 37 percent year-on-year.
The ministry will launch guidelines on promoting imports of mechanical and electrical products next year, to meet the growing national demand and to help rescue the global economic recovery, said Zhang Ji, director of the department of industry with the ministry.
Imports related especially to new energy, new materials, energy saving, high-end equipment manufacturing, low-carbon technology, aerospace, shipbuilding and rail transportation will be the focus.
The US and the EU have been setting restrictions on high-tech exports to China, thought to be the source of their trade deficit with China.