BEIJING, April 17 (Xinhua) -- China is confident about achieving the full-year target of 10-percent growth in foreign trade, despite slowed growth in the first quarter due to cumulative factors, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Tuesday.
In the first three months this year, the country's exports and imports rose 7.3 percent from a year earlier.
"The growth rate was relatively low. It was a result of cumulative factors from both home and abroad," MOC spokesman Shen Danyang said at a press conference.
The world's largest exporter suffered from weak external demand, increasing trade competition and disputes, and rising costs for domestic enterprises in the first quarter, Shen said.
Despite these difficulties, exports grew 7.6 percent compared to the same period last year. "It was hard earned and better than expected," the spokesman said.
He said weak growth in the United States and the European Union, China's two major export markets, reduced orders for many Chinese exporters. Meanwhile, rising costs for domestic companies made Chinese exports more expensive and less competitive.
"Some orders, especially those of labor-intensive industries, were taken away by countries and regions in Southeast Asia," Shen said.
Rising trade protectionism also posed new challenges to Chinese exporters. In the first quarter, foreign countries filed 16 trade remedy cases against China, up 180 percent from a year earlier. Those cases involved nearly 3 billion U.S. dollars, more than double that in the same period last year, Shen said.
As for imports, the spokesman said the growth fell within a reasonable range but was slightly lower than market expectations. Weak domestic demand, an anticipated deceleration of processing trade and falling commodity prices led to the slower import growth.
The ministry had actively worked to help exporters and importers, and it was confident that the growth would pick up in the second quarter and the full-year target would be achieved, Shen said.