BEIJING, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Although ascending to the spot of the world's largest goods trader is a major milestone for China's development, it is no excuse for complacency, according to experts.
China's goods trade in 2013 reached 4.16 trillion U.S. dollars, overtaking the United States for the first time to become the world's largest goods trading nation, according to the latest WTO figures.
"It is a significant milestone for the development of China's open economy," said minister Gao Hucheng, cited by a Ministry of Commerce statement released Monday.
MIRACLE IN WORLD TRADE HISTORY
The achievement marks a miracle in world trade history, as China's foreign trade volume has doubled about every four years since 1978 to become the first developing nation to top the trader throne, Gao said.
"Foreign trade has become the most dynamic driving force for social and economic development," he said.
Since the implementation of the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, China's trade volume has surged from 20.6 billion U.S. dollars to 4.16 trillion U.S. dollars, representing compound annual growth of 16.4 percent.
The average contribution of foreign trade to China's economic growth has been around 18 percent since 1978, with foreign trade adding 180 million jobs each year and contributing 18 percent of China's tax revenues, MOC data showed.
China is currently on the right path of trade growth, as shown by these achievements, Gao said.
MOVING TOWARD "STRONG TRADING NATION"
However, China should also fully understand the problems and challenges in seeking trade growth, according to the minister.
"Although becoming the world's biggest trader brings us joy, we should stay calm and cautious," Gao said, adding that there is still a long, arduous road ahead to becoming a "strong trading nation."
For a long time, Chinese products have relied on quantity and price advantages in international competition, while lacking core competitiveness and added value, he said.
In 2013, China's exports of high-tech products accounted for 29.9 percent of its total exports, but 73 percent of those products were made by foreign-invested companies.
"Innovation-based trade growth should be promoted, as innovation is the source of growth vigor," Gao said.
Although China has become the leader in goods trade, trade in services still lags far behind the United States.
China's total service trade reached 539.64 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, less than half of that for the U.S. The country saw a deficit of 118.46 billion U.S. dollars in service trade, even though it had a large surplus in goods trade.
Yuan Gangming, a researcher with the Center for China in the World Economy at Tsinghua University, also said China should adjust the trade structure and promote trade of capital-intensive and technology-intensive products.
For a long time, labor-intensive products have occupied a major proportion of China's trade of finished products, Yuan said.
Gao added that China should still improve its trade mechanisms to promote trade balance and avoid the obsession with scale and growth rates.
China also has an urgent need to foster new advantages in global competition amid rising labor costs and energy and environmental restraints on its economic growth, Gao said.