China has emerged as the world’s biggest goods trading nation, overtaking the US despite a downturn in exports due to a slump in global trade, the country’s Customs Department has said.

According to data released by the Department, China’s combined imports and exports reached $3.87 trillion in 2012, edging past the US’ $3.82 trillion in goods estimated by the US Commerce Department.

This is the second major milestone for China after it overtook Japan in 2011 as the world’s second largest economy, it said.

Though the country with over 1.34 billion people overtook the US in trade terms, the American economy remained twice the size of that China. The US economy is worth $15 trillion compared to China’s $7.3 trillion.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said the rise in its global trade comes on the back of exporters hurrying their shipments before a waiver of inspection fees expires at the end of February.

Experts predict that the gap between the two will widen over the coming years, as China is strengthening trade links with other Asian and African countries, state-run television channel CCTV reported.

Many European countries are also likely to engage in more individual trade with China.

China has been the world’s top exporter since 2009, while the US remained the world’s biggest importer in 2012.

The US last week released its 2012 international trade figures, showing that while the overall trade deficit shrank to around $540 billion, it grew with China during the past year. China-US trade amounted to $468.8 billion in 2011 with a $295.5-billion trade balance in favour of China.

In signs of China’s export markets rebounding, its shipments registered an eight-month high of 25 per cent last month, while overall foreign trade surged 26.7 year-on-year to $345.59 billion.

China’s foreign trade increased 26.7 per cent year-on-year to 2.17 trillion yuan ($345.59 billion) in January, according to data from the General Administration of Customs (GAC). Plush with $3.30 trillion forex reserves China has already initiated a host of steps to revive domestic demand to reduce its dependency on exports.

After adjustments to seasonal factors, January data remained bullish, with foreign trade up 8.1 per cent year-on-year, exports up 12.4 per cent and imports up 3.4 per cent.

The January data showed that China’s foreign trade with the European Union rose 10.5 per cent year-on-year last month to stand at $47.14 billion. Trade between China’s mainland and Hong Kong surged 83 per cent to $33.4 billion.

Last year, China’s annual foreign trade growth slowed to 6.2 per cent missing the Government’s 10-per cent target set for 2012. The Chinese Academy of Sciences, a Government think-tank, forecast 8.4-per cent economic growth for 2013, higher than the 7.8 per cent realised in 2012.

(This article was published on February 12, 2013)
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