China Vows to Boost Imports Ahead of U.S. Talks

The powerful State Council said China will 'appropriately' increase the scale of imports to encourage more balanced trade and reduce trade friction, according to a document posted on the central-government website.

Beijing on Monday unveiled guidelines aimed at boosting imports, just days ahead of a key meeting with the United States expected to address China's politically sensitive trade surplus.

The powerful State Council, or cabinet, said China will "appropriately" increase the scale of imports to encourage more balanced trade and reduce trade friction, according to a document posted on the central-government website.

China will boost imports of high-tech equipment, key components and energy products, according to the document.

China's massive trade surplus with the United States is controversial and U.S. officials have long accused Beijing of keeping the value of its currency artificially low to boost exports.

The two countries will hold talks on Thursday and Friday expected to address a range of issues, including complaints about China's trade practices.

They have a number of outstanding trade disputes, including accusations by U.S. companies that Chinese firms are dumping solar products in the American market.

The U.S. trade deficit with China reached a record high of more than $295 billion in 2011, according to U.S. figures.

China defends its exchange-rate system, saying it is moving gradually to make its currency more flexible. Earlier this month, China loosened some controls over the yuan by allowing a broader trading band.

Beijing also has called on the United States to loosen its controls on exports of high-tech products to China, some imposed to prevent sensitive U.S. technology from being used for military applications.

The State Council said boosting imports will help increase domestic consumption as the government seeks other drivers for the economy besides exports and state spending.

The government will support the drive by cutting import taxes on products China lacks or cannot produce, while offering financing to support imports, it said.

China's overall trade surplus narrowed to $155.14 billion last year from $181.51 billion in 2010, according to official figures, and economic woes in key overseas markets are expected to further shrink the trade gap.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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