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Beijing (AFP) Nov 20, 2012
Foreign direct investment in China fell again in October, the government said Tuesday, as investors remained cautious amid global economic woes and China's own slowdown.
Foreign companies invested $8.3 billion in factories and other projects in China last month, down 0.24 percent from a year ago, Shen Danyang, Ministry of Commerce spokesman, said at a regular news conference.
The drop extended a broad downward trend stretching back to November of last year. Since then, FDI has declined every month except May, when it rose a marginal 0.05 percent.
For the first 10 months of the year, FDI fell 3.45 percent on year to $91.7 billion, Shen said.
The government has blamed the slump on the slowdown in global economic growth, the prolonged European debt crisis and rising costs and weak demand at home.
The world's second-largest economy itself has slowed for seven consecutive quarters as well, expanding 7.4 percent in the three months ended September 30, its worst performance since the first quarter of 2009.
Investment from debt-laden European Union countries decreased by five percent on year in the January-October period to $5.2 billion, according to the ministry's data.
Ten Asian countries and regions, including Hong Kong and Thailand, invested $78.0 billion in China in the period, down 4.7 percent from a year ago.
In contrast to dropping FDI, China's investment abroad surged sharply this year after slowing last year owing to a weak global economic recovery and financial turmoil in Europe and the United States.
Outbound direct investment in non-financial sectors in the first 10 months of the year totalled $58.2 billion, soaring 25.8 percent from the same period last year, Shen said.
"This is the inevitable result of the implementation of our strategy (for Chinese companies) to go abroad, the improvement of Chinese firms' competitiveness and changes in the international market," he said.
In 2011, the figure stood at $60.1 billion, up just 1.8 percent year on year, previous official data showed.
China has set goals to increase overseas direct investment at an average annual rate of 17 percent through 2015 to $150 billion by then, according to the government.
China says US overtakes EU as its top export market
"The biggest is the US and the EU is second," Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang told reporters at a regular briefing, without saying when the reversal occurred. "The EU used to be the biggest," he added.
Chinese customs figures for the first 10 months of this year showed that China's exports to the United States totalled $289.3 billion, while shipments to the EU came to $276.8 billion.
Weak demand from both Europe and the US has been a big factor as China's economic growth has slowed over the past seven quarters to the end of September.
Economic growth in the United States remains weak but is expanding, while the eurozone's debilitating debt crisis has dragged it back into recession.
Shen noted that China will probably miss its full year target of 10 percent foreign trade growth this year due to sluggish overseas demand, particularly in Europe and Japan.
"The international economic situation this year has been severe and complicated. There have been many uncertainties, with slack foreign demand being the most severe one," he said.
"It will be indeed very difficult to achieve this year's 10-percent target for trade growth," he said, yet added it was premature to conclude what the full year increase would turn out to be.
Chinese customs data showed foreign trade rose by just 6.3 percent in the first 10 months of the year from the same period in 2011.
Shen also said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had moved past Japan as China's third-biggest export market.
Japan, which is in the midst of a diplomatic row with China that has hit trade between the two nations, slipped to fourth place.
Shen offered no explanation for China's changing trade patterns with ASEAN and Japan.
China shipped $125.3 billion in goods to Japan in the first 10 months of the year, compared with $163.9 billion dollars to the 10 ASEAN countries, according to customs figures.
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