China is expected to have overtaken the United States as the world’s top trader for the first time, Chinese researchers say, as the total value of all its exports and imports last year likely exceeded that of the U.S.
"Judging from the current statistics, there is a very high possibility that the value of China's goods trade will have exceeded the U.S. in 2013," said Wang Haifeng, a researcher with the Institute for International Economic Research at the National Development and Reform Commission, Caijing reported on Sunday.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce echoed the sentiment and said that thanks to a recovery in the global economy and reform in China, 2013 will likely see the world’s second-largest economy replace the U.S. as the world’s largest trader. China is also the world’s largest exporter and second-largest importer.
According to the latest data available from the General Administration of Customs, the value of China’s goods trade reached $3.77 trillion in the first 11 months of 2013.
If China traded $370 billion in December – the same amount in December 2012 and exhibits zero growth – the nation’s goods trade will still have reached $4.14 trillion in 2013. But December is usually a robust trading month in China. The December year-on-year trade grew 10.2 percent in 2012, and was as high as 32.7 percent in 2009.
In comparison, U.S. goods trade in the January to October period reached $3.25 trillion, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Census. The U.S. would have had to accumulate a trade value of at least $880 billion in November and December of 2013, which would be a 37.5 percent jump compared to the same period in 2012, a vastly ambitious number.
China will announce its 2013 trade amount next week, while the U.S. figures will not be published until February.
Chinese trade in 2012 was already just $15 billion short of the U.S. figure, according to the World Trade Organization, which is the equivalent of about a day and a half of China’s average daily trade value that year. But trade is just one measurement of China’s economy.
"The size of the value of the trade in goods tells just one side of the story. The other side is that China's export competitiveness, as well as the competitiveness of its trade structure, is far behind the U.S.,” Wang said. “The competitive advantage of U.S. exports centers on its technology, quality and brands, with added-value being very significant. China's export prices are much cheaper on average and a large part of its exports are from OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).
"China is catching up in the trade in global goods, but the U.S. still holds the lead," Wang added, according to Chinese newspaper Caijing.
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