|Zheng Yuesheng, director of the statistics department of the General Administration of Customs, addresses a press conference held by the Information Office of the State Council to introduce China's imports and exports in 2012, in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 10, 2013. According to the latest statistics released by the General Administration of Customs, China's total foreign trade volume in 2012 reached more than 3.86 trillion U.S. dollars, growing by 6.2 percent year on year. The growth rate is 16.3 percentage points less than 2011. (Xinhua/Li Xin)
BEIJING, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- China's annual foreign trade growth missed the government's 10-percent target set for 2012 by rising only 6.2 percent from 2011, customs data showed Thursday.
The country's export and import volume totaled 3.87 trillion U.S. dollars last year and the growth slowed sharply from the 22.5-percent rise registered in 2011, according to Zheng Yuesheng, spokesman for the General Administration of Customs.
Exports rose 7.9 percent in 2012 from the previous year, while imports increased 4.3 percent year on year, Zheng said at a press conference.
Foreign trade surplus widened to 231.1 billion U.S. dollars last year, 48.1 percent more than that in 2011.
Zheng said last year's trade performance came despite a deepening debt crisis in the eurozone, slowing global economic recovery, continuously sluggish demand and downward pressure for the domestic economy.
The country's trade will be "slightly better" in 2013, he said.
Trade with Europe, China's biggest trade partner, declined 3.7 percent year on year in 2012. Trade with the United States, which overtook Europe to become the biggest buyer of Chinese exports, expanded 8.5 percent from one year earlier.
Trade between Japan and China last year sank 3.9 percent from 2011 as a result of tensions after Japan's "purchase" of part of the Diaoyu Islands. The country is now China's fifth-largest trade partner.
In December, the value of Chinese exports gained 14.1 percent from one year earlier, up from November's unexpectedly weak 2.9-percent rise. The value of imports rose 6 percent year on year last month, improving from November, when there was no growth.
The strong rebound in December trade may be a sign of higher-than-expected GDP growth for the fourth quarter of 2012, said Liu Ligang, an economist at ANZ National Bank Ltd.
GDP data for the fourth quarter is due for release on Jan. 18.
In the long run, foreign trade will no longer sustain China's growth as it used to, as the traditional advantages of demographic dividends and the initial impetus of China's accession to the World Trade Organization are fading away, Liu said.
Liu Junyu, an analyst at China Merchants Bank, said the trade outlook for the first half of this year will remain dim, as the rebound in December was also a result of a lower comparative base from 2011 and improving orders following holiday shopping seasons in foreign countries.
Net exports, which were once a main driver of China's economic expansion, shaved 0.4 percentage points off GDP growth in the third quarter.
China's GDP rose 7.4 percent in the third quarter from one year earlier, slowing for seven consecutive quarters and marking the slowest growth in more than three years.