China could become world's largest importer within five years

Beijing: China is expected to overtake the US to become the world's largest importer within five years, a leading Chinese investment firm said on Monday.

In the past ten years, China's annual average import growth was six percentage points higher than the US, Xinhua news agency reported. 

If that growth gap remains in 2018 and moderates by 0.15 percentage points in each of the following years in a baseline scenario, the country will become the world's largest importer by 2022, according to a report released by China International Capital Corporation (CICC).

By a more conservative estimate, China will become the top importer by 2025, CICC said.

China is now the world's largest exporter and the second largest importer. As the domestic economy has stabilised and global commodity prices have recovered, imports in the first ten months of the year rose 21.5 per cent year on year, official data showed.

The country's rising imports have a significant global impact, as it is the largest importer for 41 countries and regions, compared with 36 for the US, the CICC report said.

With imports likely to continue to outpace exports in the coming few years, China's foreign trade will become more balanced as it has been in the past two years, according to CICC.

CICC predicts the trade surplus in goods and services will account for around 1 per cent of GDP in 2017, the lowest level since 1994.

China is also expected to become the world's largest consumer market and start importing more consumer-related products than industrial materials, as its growth becomes increasingly consumer driven.

"In our view, the rise of Chinese consumers, with its significant positive spillover effect on the rest of the world, will be the most important and exciting investment story in the coming years," the report said.

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