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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 16:27 GMT
China reports import surge
disney shop hong kong
China also exports many goods to the US
China has reported an "unprecedented" surge in imports as the country enters some of the final discussions in Geneva to join the global trade body, the World Trade Organisation.

Total imports for 2000 were valued at more than $225bn (150bn), an increase of nearly 36% on 1999.

Global market demand will fall on a slowdown in the world economy, and especially the US economy

Vanessa Hu, BNP Prime Peregrine

The rise in imports was boosted by higher oil prices, with oil imports rising nearly 92% by volume to more than 70 million tonnes.

By value, they were up by 120% to $14.9bn (9.95bn).

The state owned Xinhua News Agency, reporting the figures from China's General Administration of Customs, called it "an unprecedented growth in imports in 2000".

China, with its emerging market economy, has also seen a huge growth in demand for foreign-manufactured hi-tech goods, which are seen as superior to domestically made products.

Imports of these were up by more than 39% over the previous year to $52.5bn.


Last year, China's exports rose 27.8% to more than $249bn. But analysts were predicting that this year, the figure would be down sharply - rising by just 10-11% - because of the slowdown in the US economy.

"Global market demand will fall on a slowdown in the world economy, and especially the US economy," said Vanessa Hu, a Beijing-based economist with BNP Prime Peregrine.

Last year nearly 21% of China's overseas shipments went to America so the impact on Chinese exports could be serious.

Although this has to be put into context. China operates a huge trade surplus with the rest of the world, with exports far exceeding imports.

The country has also seen a number of foreign firms rethinking their plans to invest in its economy, after they became frustrated by red tape.

Membership of the WTO

When China finally joins the WTO, it will open up lucrative new Western markets to Chinese exports as never before.

Foreign investors will also have new opportunities to enter a country that until a decade or so ago was a strict Communist dictatorship.

Imports into China itself are also predicted to rise even further, as barriers fall.

The latest round of talks in Geneva, is to finish the substantive part of the negotiations to complete China's entry to the global trade body, a process that has taken 14 years.

China's chief negotiator Long Yongtu has been generally optimistic, saying success is not "far away".

But Western negotiators have been more cautious, indicating that agreement could take several months, with a series of trade deals still needing to be finalised.

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See also:

10 Jan 01 | Business
China's WTO goal in sight
21 Dec 00 | Business
China nears end of WTO talks
19 Dec 00 | Business
US trade gap close to record
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