• Aug. 16, 2017, 12:25 pm

China’s Commerce Ministry says trade levels in second half of year to improve

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s trade position is expected to improve in the second half the year, the country’s Commerce Ministry said, playing down concern sparked by recent dismal trade figures.

China’s exports unexpectedly fell 6.4 percent in April from a year earlier, while imports tumbled by a deeper-than-forecast 16.2 percent, according to data released on Friday.

The poor trade performance raises the risk that second-quarter economic growth may dip below 7 percent for the first time since the depths of the global financial crisis, adding to official fears of job losses and growing levels of bad debt.

“The trade situation in the second half of the year is expected to be better than in the first half,” Ministry spokesman Sun Jiwen said in a statement posted online late on Saturday, despite China’s “increasingly complicated and grave” foreign trade situation.

Sluggish external markets, the appreciating yuan, high financing costs and rising labor costs were among the main challenges, Sun said.

“Our country’s exports still maintain growth momentum and the degree of decline in imports is progressively narrowing,” he said, adding that the ministry would continue to cut red tape to facilitate trade.

China’s trade minister has said the devaluation of currencies by some countries has led to sharp gains in the yuan, hurting the competitiveness of Chinese exports.

Vice Premier Wang Yang was quoted by Xinhua state news agency as saying last month that authorities must arrest China’s export slowdown lest it further dampen economic growth.

China’s trade grew 3.4 percent in 2014, missing the government’s growth target of 7.5 percent by more than half.

The government has lowered its growth target for 2015, with combined imports and exports expected to rise around 6 percent.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Judy Hua; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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