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Hu says China to focus on expanding imports

By Louise Watt

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Dec. 11 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

BEIJING — Chinese President Hu Jintao said Sunday that China doesn't intentionally pursue a large trade surplus and it will focus on expanding imports in the coming years.

At 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 dollars over the next five years, bringing "enormous opportunities" to businesses around the world eager to sell to hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers.

Hu was speaking at a forum to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of China's accession to the World Trade Organization.

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 $1.39 trillion. But imports are on the rise, reaching $1.426 trillion in the first 10 months of 2011.

Some politicians in the United States also accuse China of keeping its currency artificially low, therefore making its exports cheaper and wiping out American jobs.

Also at the forum in Beijing, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said that while China has shown remarkable growth since joining the trading forum, the global economy now needs the country to step up as a mature trade partner.

Like many economists, Lamy believes that as China becomes wealthier, it has to revamp its national economy to boost domestic consumption.

Lamy said that the time had come for China to contribute more to global trade issues, such as global trade regulation, as a "key member of the WTO family."

Hu praised China's 10 years of WTO membership as benefiting the country and people around the world, and said China, the world's largest developing country, would boost domestic consumption.

"The world today is an open one. Only by adhering to reform and opening up can we make continued progress to solve the problems in the course of development," Hu said.

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.

He said China faces major challenges, including unbalanced and unsustainable development and greater pressure on resources and the environment, and that China's capacity for innovation and international competitiveness are not strong.

"By further opening up the market and importing advanced technologies, we will improve the international competitiveness of the manufacturing sector and push traditional manufacturing towards the higher end of the value chain," he said.

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.

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