China expects trade to grow at similar pace to GDP

BEIJING (AFP) - China said on Wednesday that it expects foreign trade to grow at a similar pace to the economy this year, indicating a feeble pickup from 2012.

"Our target this year is... to try to keep foreign trade increasing at a rate that is roughly in accordance with GDP growth," Mr Shen Danyang, spokesman of the Ministry of Commerce, told reporters at a regular briefing without giving a specific figure.

China had declared it wanted to see trade grow by 10 per cent in 2012, but last week announced expansion of 6.2 per cent for the period, missing the target.

That was a marked slowdown from 2011, when trade increased 22.5 per cent.

The world's-second largest economy is yet to announce its goal for economic growth this year. But Beijing has set a target of 7.0-per cent average annual growth for the five years through 2015.

The median forecast in an AFP survey of 15 economists for economic growth this year is eight percent.

The government has mainly blamed the sluggish recovery of the world economy and rising trade protectionism for the country's failure to meet last year's trade target.

Mr Shen cautioned that the situation this year would remain challenging.

He said China still "faces so many difficulties" including insufficient overseas demand and an unhealthy trade environment that would be "hard to turn around".

"So the general situation for foreign trade will remain severe in 2013," he said.