President Hu: China to Focus on Expanding Imports

In a speech addressing a forum that commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the accession of China to the World Trade Organization, President Hu Jintao said that China will attempt to expand imports in the coming years. This announcement comes amid concerns about the economic slowdown, unbalanced and unsustainable development, and stresses on the environment. The Associated Press reports:

In a speech broadcast live on state television, Hu said China’s ultimate aim is to have balanced trade and that total imports will exceed $8 trillion over the next five years, bringing “enormous opportunities” to businesses around the world eager to sell to hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers.

Other economies are looking to China to help drive global demand, but its high trade surplus has meant that fewer of the gains are shared with other countries. Last year, China imported goods worth $1.39 trillion. But imports are on the rise, reaching $1.426 trillion in the first 10 months of 2011.

The president also urged other countries to recognize China’s full-market economy status as soon as possible and relax restrictions on high-tech commodity exports to China. Major trading partners including the European Union and the United States do not recognize China as a market economy, making it easier for WTO panels to rule that its companies dump goods on overseas markets.

China will also accelerate the development of its services sector, make the agricultural sector more efficient and commit to green and low-carbon development, Hu said.

Bloomberg has more about China’s ten-year anniversary as a member of the WTO:

China joined the Geneva-based WTO on Dec. 11, 2001, capping a 15-year drive to join the rules-based trading system and giving foreign companies from Yum! Brands Inc. and General Motors Co. to HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) and Nokia Oyj (NOK1V) a bigger foothold in the world’s most-populous market.

Since then, China has become the world’s biggest exporter and second-largest importer. Trade in goods such as clothing, electronics, toys and appliances soared to almost $3 trillion last year from $510 billion in 2001, with both exports and imports growing almost fivefold.

“This spectacular rise would not have been possible without the open global trading system that China was able to benefit from during the past 10 years,” said European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.

“At the same time, China is having to increasingly recognize and respect not only the legal responsibilities it now faces as a member of a global rules-based body, but also the WTO ‘spirit’ of promoting open markets and non-discriminatory principles in its domestic legislation, and the enforcement of it,” De Gucht said in an e-mailed statement from Brussels.