China exports may stay strong despite weak Europe

Thu Mar 1, 2012 12:11am EST
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By Zhou Xin and Nick Edwards

BEIJING (Reuters) - Workers at an electrical products factory in eastern China received a pleasant shock when they returned to their jobs after the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays.

They expected a worryingly quiet period at the Zhejiang TTN factory in Wenzhou because orders from Western Europe, traditionally a key market, have been falling.

Instead, the workers had to scramble to adjust production lines because the factory surprisingly had secured big orders from new markets -- one from Russia and another from India.

The Wenzhou case is an example of how some Chinese exporters are expanding their horizons to emerging markets. This could prove pivotal now that sales to Europe are falling and other Western markets could have downturns.

Orders such as Zhejiang TTN's new ones -- worth more than $3 million in total -- could mean that the export sector proves more resilient than many international investors believe.

"The overall situation is not as bad as some have feared -- Europe is weak, but the market won't collapse," said Li Jian, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation "Japan needs imports to reconstruct after the (2011) earthquake, and the U.S. economy is recovering."

Chinese exports "are expected to again report double-digit growth in 2012, so should imports," added Li, whose organization is a think-tank feeding China's Ministry of Commerce.