BEIJING, June 11 (Xinhua) -- In the face of prolonged weakness in the external market, the world's largest exporter is pinning its hopes on import growth to maintain trade balance and sustain recovery.
Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said Monday that despite some recovery in May's trade figures, China's foreign trade condition is still "grim" and that the country will put more emphasis on import expansion at present and in the coming period.
China might be able to maintain 10-percent growth this year "if we're lucky," Chen said on the sidelines of a national conference on imports.
In the wake of profound changes in the global market, China's foreign trade development has entered a new stage in which equal emphasis should be placed on both exports and imports, Chen said.
The decision to expand imports will not be made out of sheer expediency, but as an important step for China's economic development, as import growth will enhance economic balance, support the country's structural adjustment, increase consumption and crack China's development bottleneck, he said.
Chen said the government will further facilitate imports by implementing preferential charging policies, as well as strictly manage import charges.
Domestic circulation enterprises are encouraged to take part in import-related business, he said.
Local authorities will work together to create more favorable policies to boost imports, Chen said. More import promotion activities will be held and financial, tax and fiscal support will be strengthened to facilitate Chinese importers, he said.
The value of China's imports jumped to 1.74 trillion U.S. dollars in 2012 from 295.3 billion U.S.dollars in 2002, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce.
China's foreign trade rose 14.1 percent year on year to 343.58 billion U.S. dollars in May, rebounding from the 2.7-percent growth registered in April, with imports rising 12.7 percent to 162.44 billion U.S. dollars, according to customs data.
The Ministry of Commerce expects China to overtake the United States as the world's largest importer, with the value of imported goods expected to exceed 8 trillion U.S.dollars in the 2011-2015 period.
Li Jian, a researcher with the Ministry of Commerce, said boosting imports while stabilizing exports will be a long-term strategy for China as the country aims to reduce its trade surplus and realize balanced trade for healthier economic development.
Lowering the trade surplus will help avoid losses in China's foreign currency reserves, especially when the global economic outlook remains uncertain.
As of the end of March this year, China's foreign exchange reserves hit 3.31 trillion U.S. dollars. In 2011, its annual trade surplus narrowed 14.5 percent year on year to 155.14 billion U.S. dollars.
"Increasing imports of high-tech equipment and products will help with China's industrial structure adjustments and upgrading," Li added.
Meanwhile, domestic consumption expansion is an important target for boosting imports, as lower tariffs for daily necessities, like meat and dairy products, cosmetics and clothing, can meet the rising demand from Chinese consumers and stimulate consumption, he said.