Commerce minister Chen Deming expressed cautious optimism on China's foreign trade hopes Friday on the sidelines of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature.
"I am optimistic that foreign trade growth will reach 8 percent in 2013 as long as there is no major global turmoil," Chen told reporters on Friday.
The central government's work report, released on Monday, for the first time didn't include a target for foreign trade growth.
China's foreign trade grew 6.2 percent in 2012, failing to reach the growth target of 10 percent and lagging behind GDP growth of 7.8 percent.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) predicted growth in 2013 would hit 8 percent, with export and import figures recorded last month suggested that the forecasted growth rate is attainable.
Exports increased 21.8 percent year on year to $139.37 billion in February, while imports fell 15.2 percent to $124.12 billion, according to the statistics released by the General Administration of Customs (GAC) on Friday.
The GAC said that after taking seasonal factors into account, such as February's Spring Festival holiday, exports rose 20.6 percent and imports climbed 6.5 percent.
"I'm more optimistic than the minister as I see from the figures that foreign trade will be stable and what makes me even happier is the structural change in exports. This change means that the country can have better conditions for reforms in the economic system with stable foreign trade," Tian Yun, an economist with the China Society of Macroeconomics under the NDRC, told the Global Times on Friday.
In the first two months, trade with the EU, China's largest trade partner, was up 3 percent, while that with the US, its second-largest trade partner, rose 14.8 percent.
Trade with ASEAN countries increased by 22 percent. Trade with Russia was up 31.6 percent with that with South Africa surging by 61.4 percent.
"China's trade diversified, as it used to rely heavily on its trade with the US, EU and Japan. China needs to introduce high-end and low energy-consumption industries in the country to maintain a sustainable growth and boost trade with emerging economies to obtain resources for future growth," Tian said.
At the press conference, Chen said China recently sealed free trade agreements (FTA) with 15 countries and is holding talks on FTAs with 13 more.
"We should not focus only on the quantity but on the quality of foreign trade. China has exported 1 million cars so far and it is only a start. As China's economic restructuring continues, the country will export more high-tech products such as cars and high-speed trains, and transfer its overloading manufacturing industries overseas which fits its national strategy to encourage small- and medium-size enterprises to go overseas as well," Tian said.
"The global economic situation is still unclear. China needs to expand its exports while also investing overseas," He Weiwen, co-director of the China-US-EU Study Center under the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times.
According to He, foreign investment, which will lead to the establishing of more plants and businesses, could help the country's exports. He also noted that the service sector would be an area of future priority for China to draw foreign investment into.