BEIJING Chinese imports will increase strongly for years to come, but its exports will struggle to regain the growth enjoyed before the global financial crisis, the country's customs chief said in remarks published on Tuesday.
China, the world's largest exporter, wishes to see greater balance between its imports and exports, and does not seek a trade surplus, Sheng Guangzu, the head of the General Administration of Customs, said in the International Business Daily, a newspaper published under the Ministry of Commerce.
"After realizing a recovery, it will be very difficult for Chinese exports to further expand," he wrote in a commentary.
Sheng said that the outlook for imports was much stronger.
"With the transformation of China's economic model, domestic demand, especially consumption demand, will replace external demand to become the important engine of our economic growth," he said.
China recorded a $7.2 billion trade deficit in March, its first monthly deficit in six years. Economists and officials said it was likely an anomaly, driven by rising global commodity prices and volatility in exports after the Chinese New Year.
But Sheng said that the long-run trend was clear: the role of exports in the Chinese economy was gradually diminishing.
"Our country is focusing on transforming its economic growth model, including changing the model of trade growth to seek a basic balance. We are not pursuing trade surplus deliberately," Sheng said.
(Reporting by Aileen Wang and Simon Rabinovitch; Editing by Ken Wills)