UPDATE 1-China trade Q2 performance to improve from Q1 -MOFCOM
* China Commerce Ministry confident of meeting 2012 trade growth target
* Trade in Q2 to show improvement versus Q1
* Expects stable policy backdrop to achieve targets
BEIJING, April 17 (Reuters) - China's Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday it was confident of achieving its targeted rate of growth in international trade in 2012 and that the second quarter would prove stronger than the first quarter.
Shen Danyang, the spokesman for the ministry, said China's first quarter exports, although weak, were better than expected, and China's exports and imports in the second quarter are expected to be stronger.
"We are still confident that we can achieve the trade growth target for this year," Shen told a news conference.
China has set a 10 percent growth rate for exports and imports in 2012, but both targets were missed in March, with imports expanding just 5.3 percent from a year ago while exports grew 8.9 percent.
However, China still returned to an overall trade surplus of $5.35 billion in March, heralding the prospect that a rebound in the global economy is lifting overseas orders just in time to compensate for a slowdown in domestic demand.
"The trade situation this year will be grim due to slowing demand abroad and rising costs at home, as well as increasing trade disputes," Shen told reporters.
"But we are still confident of meeting our foreign trade development objectives, namely stabilising growth, promoting balance and adjusting its structure."
China has pledged to bring its current account into balance as it refocuses its economy more towards domestic consumption and away from volatile foreign demand for manufactured goods from the country's vast, export-oriented, factory sector.
China's two biggest export markets faltered through 2011 as demand from the European Union was dogged by a persistent sovereign debt crisis, while recovery in the United States has been slow to take hold, particularly among consumers.
For the first quarter as a whole, Customs Administration data from China shows the value of total exports was $430.02 billion, while imports were $429.35 billion - bringing the trade account roughly into the balance targeted by the government.
"If we want export growth to be stable, we must ensure that policies are stable," Shen said. "If there are any policy adjustments, these adjustments will be more towards pro-exports rather than limiting exports."