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中国成为世界第一货物贸易国:China overtakes US as world’s largest goods trader

10/01/2014| Jamil Anderlini and Lucy HornbyTHE FINANCIAL TIMES
China became the world’s biggest trader in goods for the first time last year, overtaking the US for all of 2013 and finishing the year with record trade figures in December.

Coming fast on the heels of China taking over as the 
world’s largest oil importer, the shift is another milestone as the country takes its place among the world’s most powerful nations. Trade with the rest of Asia and increasing flows with the Middle East represent a shift in power away from the US, still the world’s largest economy.

The total value of China’s imports and exports in 2013 was $4.16tn, a 7.6 per cent increase from a year earlier on a renminbi-adjusted basis, according to figures released by the Chinese government on Friday.
The US will release its full-year figures in February but its total imports and exports of goods amounted to $3.57tn in the 11 months from January to November 2013, making it a virtual certainty that China is now the world’s biggest goods trading nation.
Some historians argue China was the world’s largest trading nation during the Qing dynasty – which lasted from 1644-1912 – despite the ambivalence of Chinese emperors toward foreign trade.
“This is a landmark milestone for our nation’s foreign trade development,” said Zheng Yuesheng, chief statistician of the customs administration.
Mr Zheng said he expected a stronger showing in 2014, thanks to an improving world economy, the impact of structural reforms in China and a lowered outlook for commodity prices, which would help offset rising costs of labour and financing for Chinese manufacturers.
But there were also a few clouds on the horizon - namely, a decline in foreign investment in the manufacturing sector, and markedly slower growth in components brought to China to be assembled and re-exported. “We all know that one characteristic of the processing trade is to first import then export, so lower growth in processing imports shows that in the near future, the outlook for processing exports is not too optimistic,” Mr Zheng added.
About a third of China’s trade involves assembly and re-export of components produced elsewhere, although that is rapidly dwindling as industries including automobiles and electronics move their entire supply chain to China.
China’s official figures show the processing trade made up 32.6 percent of total imports and exports in 2013, a drop from 34.8 percent the year before.
According to the World Trade Organisation, the total value of China’s goods trade in 2012 trailed the US figure by a mere $15bn, or roughly a day and a half of China’s average daily trade value in 2012.
China’s rise to dominance of world trade has happened over a very short period, with the value of Chinese trade roughly doubling every four years over the past three decades.
The country became the world’s biggest goods exporter in 2009 and Chinese imports and exports now account for more than 10 per cent of global goods trade, up from just 3 per cent in 2000.

There has also been an enormous shift in the kinds of things China exports – from textiles, apparel and oil products to high-tech machinery and electronics.
In December, Chinese trade reached a record monthly high of $390bn, with exports increasing 4.3 per cent from a year earlier to $208bn and imports up 8.3 per cent from the same month in 2013 to $182bn.
For the full year, exports totalled $2.21tn, an increase of 7.9 per cent on a renminbi-adjusted basis. That narrowly missed a target of 8 per cent full-year export growth set at the start of 2013 by the Chinese government.
Imports rose 7.3 per cent from a year earlier to reach $1.95tn in 2013.
The country’s trade surplus widened 12.8 per cent to $260bn as exports to its largest traditional markets in the US and Europe recovered.
Total US exports were up 5.2 per cent in the first 11 months of last year, led by rising sales to China, which expanded 8.7 per cent from the same period a year earlier.
The US still has a big lead over China when it comes to trade in services. China’s trade in services in 2012 was about $471bn, less than half of the US figure of $1.07tn.
The Chinese government itself has expressed some concern about Chinese trade data in late 2012 and early 2013. Statistics officials have acknowledged that during that period export numbers in particular were distorted by a huge amount of fake invoicing by companies and individuals evading China’s strict capital controls to move cash in and particularly out of the country.
That will probably lower growth figures for the first months of this year.
“We should be prepared for a period of low headline year-on-year export growth due largely to the faked exports data between December 2012 and April 2013,” said Lu Ting, China economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Iron ore imports grow
It was a single cargo of iron ore arriving in Shandong Province on December 19 that pushed China’s total trade for 2014 over the milestone $400bn mark, turning the nation into the world’s largest trader of goods for the first time in centuries.
The strength of Chinese iron ore demand confounded analysts last year, with 2013 imports rising 10 per cent year on year to 820m tonnes, as steel mills defied expectations with an 8 per cent rise in output, according to estimates by the state-backed industry association.

“Consensus expectations for Chinese steel demand and production are too low,” said Christopher LaFemina of investment bank Jefferies, who argued that China’s steel production would not peak for another decade due to continued demand from growing cities.






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