China's president promises to increase trade imports

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Media captionThe benefits of joining the WTO "are gradually slowing" for China, says Zhiwei Zhang of Nomura

China's President Hu Jintao has promised to increase imports, in an effort to boost global trade.

Speaking on the 10th anniversary of China's entry into the World Trade Organization, Mr Hu said "imports may exceed $8 trillion (£5.1tn) over the next five years".

Last year, China bought only $1.39tn worth of products from overseas.

Global trade has slowed this year as business with Europe, China's largest business partner, moderated.

Customs data from Saturday showed the country's exports rose by 14% in November, while imports rose by 22%.

Balancing trade

With anaemic economic expansion in Europe and America, there is even more pressure on China, the world's second-biggest economy, to boost consumption at home.

Mr Hu said on Sunday that Beijing was serious about pursuing balance in its trade policy, adding that it would bring opportunities to countries around the world.

"We will view expansion of imports as an important way to change the development mode of foreign trade," he said at a speech at the Great Hall of the People.

"We will work hard to promote a balanced international balance of payments. We will not deliberately pursue a trade surplus."

China's trade surplus, a persistent source of tension with its trading partners, narrowed to $14.5bn last month, from $17bn in October.

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