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China outpaces US as No. 1 merchandise trader
Last Updated: 2014-03-03 10:03 | ce.cn/agencies
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China replaced the United States as the world's largest merchandise trader in 2013, a milestone in the country's decades-long trade expansion path, the Ministry of Commerce said on Saturday.

"According to the preliminary statistics of the World Trade Organization Secretariat, China was the leading merchandise trader in 2013. China's merchandise trade totaled US$4.16 trillion in 2013 with exports reaching US$2.21 trillion and imports of US$1.95 trillion," the ministry said in a statement on its website.

The statistics matched the figures released by China's General Administration of Customs on Jan. 10.

Data from the U.S. Commerce Department showed on Feb. 6 that U.S. combined exports and imports stood at US$3.91 trillion in 2013, about US$250 billion less than China's.

In 2012, the U.S. was still the world's biggest trader in merchandise, with imports and exports totaling more than US$3.88 trillion. China closely followed, with merchandise trade totaling almost US$3.87 trillion in 2012, according to the WTO.

In 2009, China became the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer.

"As a developing country, China's achievement of becoming the world's leading goods trader marks the country's new milestone in the path of developing foreign trade and is also a great fruit of its pursuit of reforms and opening-up as well as engagement in globalization," Commerce Ministry spokesman Yao Jian said in a statement on the ministry's website on Saturday.

China's foreign trade developed by strides in the past three decades, especially after its accession into the WTO in 2001. Trade expansion forcefully supported the growth of the world's second largest economy but also contributed to global economic development.

"China is now the largest trade partner of more than 120 countries and regions. Its annual imports in merchandise reached about US$2 trillion and created lots of jobs and investment opportunities for its partners," Yao said.

Long Guoqiang, a researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council, said that China's achievement as the world's leading trader in merchandise "is surely worth great compliment."

China's policies to encourage trade in the past decades, as well as its initiative to combine foreign investors' capital, technology, channel and brand advantages with its own strength in cheap land, labor and infrastructure facilities, forged the country's global competitiveness in labor-intensive exports. Meanwhile, China's established enterprises are actively using global resources through investment abroad, and boosting the country's manufacturing competitiveness, Long said.

"The role as the world's leading goods trader could serve as the foundation for China to develop into a stronger goods trader, but there is a long way to go. The value added in Chinese exports is relatively low; Chinese exporters' own brands are not enough; sales networks are not well established; the quality of some exports is not very good; and businesses should further improve their capabilities of using resources in both domestic and international markets," said Yao, the Commerce Ministry spokesman.

He added that China is confronted with different circumstances and new challenges and it is necessary to forge new advantages in engaging economic globalization through improving the country's trade growth pattern and structures.

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