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UN sees China as growth driver

CHINA'S gross domestic product is expected to drop to 8.4 percent this year from last year's 9.1 percent, but the country will remain an engine for East Asian and even global growth, according to a forecast released yesterday by the United Nations Development Program.

In the worst case, UN analysts said China's economy might slow to 7 percent if the global credit crisis continues to linger, the recession in Europe and the United States deepens and fiscal responses are delayed. The high end of the forecast range was 8.9 percent.

The government set a goal of 8 percent growth this year.

According to thhe UN report, China accounted for about 22 percent of global growth in 2008 and is likely to contribute a higher proportion this year, as most developed economies are in recession.

East Asia should experience continuing economic deceleration, with the region's 2009 GDP growth expected to fall to 6 percent from 6.9 percent in 2008 due to weakening trade with Europe and the US, according to the report.

The growth of the world economy was expected to fall to 1 percent from 2.5 percent in 2008, the UN report said.

The report forecast that the US economy would decline 1 percent and Europe 0.7 percent this year, compared with 2008 growth of 1.2 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

UN economists said the global decline would have been bigger without China's continued strong expansion.

But the country's foreign trade is slowing. China's exports and imports declined for a second consecutive month in December, reflecting weakening external and domestic demand.

Exports fell 2.8 percent from a year earlier to US$111.16 billion, while imports fell 21.3 percent to US$72.18 billion.

"The 9.1 percent growth in 2008 was still impressive, and China remains the powerhouse for the world economy," said Zhu Baoliang, vice director of the State Information Center.

Wang Tongsan, director of the Institute of Quantitative and Technical Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the country would achieve the 8 percent growth goal this year. He noted that China has implemented a series of measures to stimulate the economy and is considering even more in the second half.


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