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China Trade Volume Expected to Hit Record High - 2001-12-28

China says trade volume is expected to hit a record high of $500 billion this year. But analysts say export growth is down from last year.

Chinese state media say trade volume in 2001 is expected to be up by seven percent from last year's levels, hitting a record of $500 billion.

The official China Daily newspaper quotes Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng as saying that exports this year will grow by at least five percent from 2000, and imports will rise by eight percent.

But Ma Jun, head of Greater China Economic Research at Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong, said this year's export growth is sharply down from 2000. "This year, trade growth is much slower than last year, especially on the export side. Export growth last year was 28 percent, and, this year, Shi Guangsheng said it's expected to be around five percent, largely because of the global slowdown, which reduces the demand for Chinese exports," he said.

Still, Mr. Ma said China's performance was better than that of other Asian countries. Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia, for example, saw exports shrink this year. Mr. Ma said China's exports held up relatively well, because its products are on the low end of the consumer market, making them cheaper than high-technology exports, such as computers from other Asian countries.

State media quote Mr. Shi, the trade minister, as saying China will strive to maintain export growth in 2002, but that the global recession could hurt China's trade more than the 1997 Asian financial crisis did.

News of China's trade performance comes as President Bush formally extended permanent normal trade status to China. Mr. Bush called the move a final step in normalizing U.S. China trade relations. China became a member of the World Trade Organization this month. Under WTO rules, China will open its market further to U.S. goods and services.