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China boosts imports with tariff cuts, financial stimuli

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BEIJING, April 30 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese government on Monday called for more attention to increasing imports while stabilizing exports in order to promote more balanced and sustainable growth in foreign trade.

In a clear signal to encourage imports, the State Council, China's Cabinet, said in a guideline posted on its website that China will stabilize its imports of commodities and actively increase the imports of advanced technology and equipment, key components and parts, as well as resources and raw materials.

Imports of consumer goods will also be increased "appropriately," according to the 18-clause guideline.

Increased imports and the balanced development of foreign trade will ease domestic pressures for the resources and environmental sectors, accelerate scientific and technological innovation, improve people's consumption and reduce trade frictions, said the guideline.

"[Such moves] are of great strategic importance," it said.

Currently, China is the world's second-largest importer, and it has been the world's largest exporter since 2009 when it overtook Germany to grab the title.

China targets 10-percent annual growth in its foreign trade this year to further improve its international balance of payments, sharply down from 22.5 percent last year when China's imports and exports hit 3.64 trillion U.S. dollars.

China saw a 670-million-U.S.-dollar trade surplus in the first quarter, with imports reaching 160.31 billion dollars, according to customs data.

In the first quarter, China's imports and exports expanded 7.3 percent from a year ago to reach 859.37 billion U.S. dollars, marking the slowest pace since the fourth quarter of 2009 and showing a growth rate that was 22.3 percentage points lower than that in 2011.

According to the guideline, China will encourage imports from the least-developed countries within multi-lateral trade rules with faster tariff cuts, and it will expand imports from developing countries.

China will lower import tariffs for some resources and raw materials with provisional tax rates and "appropriately" bring down import tariffs for some goods that are closely linked with people's daily life, the guideline said, without giving further details.

The adjustment in duties on some advanced technology and equipment and key components will be done at an appropriate time, it said, adding that China will continue to implement duty-free treatment policies for imports from those least-developed countries and widen the duty-free treatment for more goods.

Chinese enterprises are encouraged to widen imports with trading partners that have already signed free-trade pacts with China, according to the guideline.

The government will also allocate more funds to support increasing imports and offer interest discounts to products under the state's encouraged lists.

The guideline also vowed to offer diversified financial stimuli such as credit support, financing facilitation, commercial insurance and cross-border trade settlement in Renminbi, or the yuan, to increase imports.

On Friday, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) warned in a report that China's foreign trade this year faces situations "far from optimistic" due to thwarted global demand, rising costs at home and a harsh trading environment.

After trade growth slowed for a second consecutive quarter in the January-March period, China's trade will continue to grow at a slow pace in the second quarter, the MOC report said.

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