BEIJING (Reuters) — China's economy is
doing better than official data suggests, the Commerce Ministry said a
day after figures showed growth at an 18-month low, adding that targets
for exports and imports this year should be met despite some caution
over the trade outlook.
Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said a rise in export deliveries,
a customs department poll of exporters and growth in trade in
individual provinces all showed that the economy was in good shape.
"I agree with the opinion that the economy and trade were faring
better than the released data showed," Shen told reporters at a
briefing on Thursday.
Data on Wednesday showed the economy grew an annual 7.4 percent in
the first quarter, its slowest pace in 18 months but just ahead of
forecasts for 7.3 percent growth.
March trade figures earlier this month showed exports unexpectedly
fell for a second successive month and imports dropped sharply.
Shen said trade numbers in 2013 had been artificially inflated by
the reporting of fake deals, used to avoid capital controls, before
a crackdown. That was one of the reasons for the sharp drop in trade
figures in the first quarter, he added.
"Stripping off the abnormally high comparison base of last year,
China's exports and imports in the first quarter actually grew 4.6
percent and 9.6 percent respectively," he said.
The government has repeatedly said it would accept slower growth to
push forward its restructuring of the economy away from a reliance
on investment and credit for growth.
Commerce Ministry data on Thursday showed foreign direct investment
(FDI) inflows of $12.2 billion in March, down 1.5 percent from a
year earlier. However, total first-quarter FDI grew by an annual 5.5
percent to $31.5 billion, and Shen said the trend of steady growth
The government wants to attract FDI to services, high-end
manufacturing, and environmental industries instead of into
low-value factories, and wants local firms to increase offshore
FDI in the service sector rose by 20.6 percent in the first quarter
from a year earlier. Services attracted 55 percent of foreign direct
investment, and manufacturing took 37 percent.
Outbound investment by non-financial Chinese firms was $19.9 billion
in the first quarter, down 16.5 percent from a year ago.
It had fallen an annual 37.2 percent in the first two months of
2014, and the commerce ministry had previously said a $15 billion
acquisition by oil and gas producer CNOOC in early 2013 was the
reason for the sharp drop.
The data showed outbound investment to Hong Kong fell 47 percent in
the first quarter from last year. Investment in ASEAN countries and
the European Union also fell.
Last week, the economic planning commission said it would ease
restrictions on overseas investments by allowing firms to make deals
of less than $1 billion without approval.