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China's foreign trade to slow to 7 pct in January-February: minister

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BEIJING, March 7 (Xinhua) -- China's export and import growth is anticipated to slow to around 7 percent year-on-year for the first two months of 2012 due to seasonal factors, Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference, Chen said he believes China will continue to see a modest increase in foreign trade this year, with the situation likely to improve in the second half of the year.

He said China will be able to achieve the 10-percent foreign trade growth specified in Premier Wen Jiabao's government work report, which was delivered to the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the national legislature, on Monday.

"With our efforts, the annual 10-percent growth target for foreign trade is attainable," he said.

The General Administration of Customs will release official trade data for February later this week.

During the first two months of 2011, China's foreign trade totaled 495.83 billion U.S. dollars, representing a 28.3-percent year-on-year growth.

Chen attributed this year's slowdown in foreign trade to tighter environments at home and abroad and the deepening of the global financial crisis, citing the impact of the European debt crisis on consumption.

Domestically, rising costs have pushed up the prices of goods and services, he said.

Since August last year, China's exports have slowed, from a year-on-year growth of 27.8 percent in August to 12 percent in December.

To achieve a 10-percent growth in imports and exports, Chen said China needs to stabilize its import and export policies, reduce tax burdens and increase financial support for exporters.

While stabilizing exports, China will continue to encourage imports of advanced technology, equipment, raw materials and consumer goods to balance trade with countries that account for the majority of China's trade surplus, he said.

The minister pledged to establish more trading mechanisms in order to encourage more underdeveloped countries and emerging economies to trade with China this year.

China's trade surplus had dropped for four years in a row in 2011, with the trade surplus accounting for only 2.1 percent of the country's GDP.

China has set a good example by meeting a guideline for Group of 20 countries that requires their trade surplus-to-GDP ratios to remain below 4 percent, Chen said.

The guideline was proposed by the United States and discussed by China and other G20 countries.

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