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China leaves behind the US as world's leading trade partner

China leaves behind the US as world's leading trade partner
In just five years, China surpassed the US as leading a trading partner in the world. With 124 countries considering China their largest trading partner and only 76 having that relationship with the US, the Asian country’s influence is on the rise.

In 2006, the US was the larger trading partner for 127 countries, while China dominated among 70. In 2011, the numbers reversed, with China dominating trade among 124 countries and the US being the top trade partner for only 76, the Associated Press reported. Some US allies even consider China their top trading partner, including Australia and South Korea.

The AP findings demonstrate China’s rapid ascent as a trade partner. As a result of its international relationships, the world’s most populous country is becoming more politically influential – and its rise won’t be ending anytime soon. China’s world output is forecasted to grow up to 8 percent a year over the next decade – a rate that surpasses all Western levels.

Trade with China was on average 12.4 percent of GDP for other countries – a rate that is higher than trade with the US has been in the past 30 years. Trade with China was only 3 percent of a country’s GDP in 2002, which demonstrates the surge that occurred in the last decade.

With rising trade influence, China is likely to also generate jobs, raise living standards and gain political power.

“The United States is a tiger with no power. Nobody can deny that China is the one now rising,” said Shin Cheol-soo, a South Korean businessman at the ENA Industry Co.

While the US is still the world’s largest importer and exports more expensive and high-quality products, China is a bigger market for 77 countries, which is an increase of 20 countries since the year 2000. The US exports innovative products in the automobile industry, aerospace, medicine, computers, finance and pharmaceuticals, but China’s low labor costs make it a success in products that can be produced cheaply.

At the current rate of trading, China will surpass the US and become the largest trader by the end of this year.

“The center of gravity of the world economy has moved to the east,” Mauricio Cardenas, the finance minister of Colombia, told AP. “I would say that there is nothing comparable in the last 50 years.”

While the recession hit US businesses hard, some began to thrive in China. Shin, the businessman at ENA Industry Co. who sold auto parts, moved his struggling business from the US to China. And across the world, people have begun to recognize the importance of China in the future world economy. Parents are increasingly encouraging their children to learn Mandarin in school.

“Mothers who send their kids here believe our children’s generation is the China generation. In the future, without learning Chinese, one won’t be able to get a job,” said Nancy Ching, who opened a Chinese-language school in South Korea.

China is also starting to look into markets that were so far dominated by the US. Rather than exporting products, the Chinese hope to soon sell services and investments, including construction and engineering. By building roads, dams, highways, and other structures in developing countries, China is now rivaling the US and Europe in areas it never touched before.

“When we see the people from America, they say ‘We want to assist Kenya’. But I don’t see it. China comes and I see one thing: the road,” said Joseph Makori, a professional driver in Kenya, where Chinese companies are increasingly winning government contracts to do construction.

China’s trade is reaching beyond just economic partnerships with countries in need of cheap products. The world’s most populous country is becoming an influential power in a range of aspects. While China is set to surpass the US and become the largest trader by the end of 2012, it may not be long before the countries will compete politically.