BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s industry ministry said on Tuesday that “arduous efforts” will be needed to achieve this year’s industrial output growth target, as trade protectionism weighs on exports and clouds the outlook for the world’s second-largest economy.
Ongoing reforms and restructuring of the country’s industrial sectors pose additional challenges, vice industry and information technology minister Xin Guobin told reporters at a news conference in Beijing.
China’s economic growth slowed to 6.2% in the second quarter, its weakest pace in at least 27 years, as demand at home and abroad faltered in the face of mounting U.S. trade pressure.
Beijing has said it can still meet its 2019 growth target of between 6% and 6.5% and continues to roll out stimulus measures to prop up activity.
China set a 2019 industrial output growth target of 5.5%-6.0%.
Output growth fell to a 17-year low of 5.0% in May from a year earlier, but rebounded to 6.3% in June. Still, analysts are unsure if the gains are sustainable, with the Sino-U.S. trade war still raging and factory surveys showing new orders are continuing to shrink.
Output grew 6% in the first half of the year, Xin said, adding that the country still faces significant challenges in stabilising production given a big drop in growth of industrial product exports.
Trade pressures have intensified since Washington sharply raised tariffs on Chinese goods in May. While the two sides have since agreed to resume trade talks and hold off on further punitive action, they remain at odds over significant issues needed for an agreement.
The prolonged trade war is pushing some Chinese and foreign manufacturers to move capacity to neighbouring countries and rebuild supply chains outside of China.
Companies relocating production is normal and in line with market rules, Xin said, adding that the impact of such moves on China’s economic growth, its labour market and industrial upgrading is controllable overall.
In southern Guangdong, 588 foreign manufacturers adjusted their capacity and moved to Vietnam, Thailand or Malaysia last year, but they only accounted for 1.44% of all foreign manufacturers in the province, Xin added.
China will help ease pressure on firms forced to relocate production, push forward breakthroughs in key technologies and strengthen Chinese firms’ ability to resist shocks, another industry ministry official said at the briefing.
Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Lusha Zhang; Editing by Kim Coghill