China export fall eased in August - customs official

A man stands in front of containers at Tianjin Port in Tianjin municipality in this March 11, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Vincent Du/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese exports fell less sharply in August from year-earlier levels than the 23 percent drop seen in July, as the overall outlook for overseas shipments improved, a top customs official said on Monday.

Li Kenong, vice head of the General Administration of Customs, also told Reuters that exports grew in August on a month-on-month basis. He declined to give specific figures.

“From the recent months’ figures we can say that China’s exports will definitely become better and better over time, but it is still difficult to judge when it will turn to positive growth,” Li said on the sidelines of a news conference.

The comments underpin optimism that, even though net exports will probably exert a negative pull on gross domestic product growth this year, the extent of the decline is easing as demand stabilises in Western countries.

Separately, Commerce Minister Chen Deming said the government would try its bet to help Chinese exporters maintain their strength in global markets.

“We must ensure that China will not lose any of its international market share,” Chen told the official Xinhua news agency in an interview.

Net exports, long a big source of growth for the world’s third-largest economy, subtracted 2.9 percentage points from GDP growth in the first half of this year. Investment -- much of it coming from the government’s huge stimulus package -- added 6.2 percentage points, with another 3.8 percentage points added by consumption, bringing growth for the first half to 7.1 percent.

Fan Gang, an adviser to the central bank, said China could regain double digit growth in exports in 2010.

China’s August trade data is scheduled to be released on Friday in principle, but could come earlier.