China is likely to overtake Germany as the world's largest exporter in 2009, despite a sharp fall in shipments as the global downturn took its toll, a high-ranking trade official has said.
A crane loads a vessel with containers at a port in Shanghai.
The country's share of global trade is expected to exceed nine percent this year, up from 8.86 percent in 2008, Vice Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said at a forum here on Sunday.
"China will probably surpass Germany to become the largest exporting country," he said, according to a statement posted on the ministry's website.
However, 2009 was a tough year for the Asian giant with full-year exports predicted to decline by 16 percent on-year, Zhong added -- the biggest decline in at least three decades, according to available ministry data.
He blamed the drop on "severely weak international demand" and "rising trade protectionism", adding the value of trade disputes brought against China in terms of potential losses doubled this year to 12 billion dollars.
The country will face an "even more complicated foreign trade situation and more arduous tasks" in 2010 given ongoing uncertainties in international demand and the stability of the yuan's exchange rate, Zhong said.
China's trade is "big but not strong", and the country must adjust its trade structure and beef up product quality and competitiveness to "realise... improvement in quality from an expansion in quantity", he said.
In the first 11 months of the year, the country's exports were down by 18.8 percent from the same period last year to 1.07 trillion dollars, official figures showed.