BEIJING (REUTERS) - China will step up support for the trade sector, including quickening the pace of tax rebate payment for exporters, Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday, as part of policy measures to support a slowing economy.
Mr Li told a regular cabinet meeting that the government faced a tough job to achieve its trade target this year, according to a statement on the central government website, www.gov.cn.
"China's trade is facing a severe and complex situation and we need to make arduous efforts to achieve the annual goal for trade growth this year," Mr Li said. "We must take resolute and forceful measures to promote steady growth in exports and imports."
The government aims for 7.5 per cent annual growth in combined exports and imports in 2014 - the same as the annual economic growth target. Exports fell 6.6 per cent in March from a year earlier, following an 18.1 per cent slide in February, and imports fell 11.3 per cent, their weakest performance in 13 months. That helped drag annual economic growth to 7.4 per cent in the first quarter from 7.7 per cent the previous quarter.
The government has in recent weeks hastened construction of railways and affordable housing and cut taxes for small firms in a bid to underpin growth.
China will take steps to support imports of advanced technology and equipment, key parts and the necessary consumer goods, Mr Li said. He also pledged to support the development of export credit insurance and said more efforts must be made to expand the scale and coverage of export credit insurance.
Mr Li said the government must speed up the payment of tax rebates to exporters and make sure rebates are fully paid. The government will also take steps to help college graduates get jobs, including allowing smaller firms to get government subsidies in pension payouts for college graduates until 2015, he said.
Other measures included allowing smaller technical firms to apply for up to 2 million yuan (S$401,300) in credit and enjoy interest rate discounts if they hire enough graduates, and give support for university graduates to set up firms.
"We have 7.27 million college graduates this year, which is the biggest number in history and could add more pressure on the job market. We must make the task of boosting employment of college graduates at a very important position," Mr Li said.