China is aiming to achieve a “basic balance” in its imports and exports in 2010 as it works to slow growth in its total trade, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Growth in China’s total trade will be contained at around 10% a year by 2010 when it is targeting a combined imports and exports value of US$2.3 trillion, according to the ministry’s Five-Year development plan, which runs from 2006 to 2010.

Last year, China’s trade totaled US$1.422 trillion, up 23.2% from 2004.

China will work to expand and develop its services trade, which lags its trade in goods, the ministry said in a statement on its Web site.

The ministry said as part of its five-year plan, it is targeting 20% annual growth in its services trade so that it reaches US$400 billion by 2010. Within that amount, it is targeting services exports growth of 19% annually to reach US$190 billion by 2010, and services imports growth of 21% annually to reach US$210 billion by that year.

In the first half this year, China’s trade in goods was in surplus by nearly US$80 billion, offset only slightly by a US$5.66 billion deficit in its services trade.

The ministry’s statement Wednesday is the first time China has set a timetable for achieving balanced trade.

China’s ballooning trade surplus, a result of exports outpacing imports, has been a key concern to Beijing because of the imbalances it brings to the country’s economic growth.

The trade imbalance has also raised the ire of China’s trading partners who say Chinese exports have an unfair competitive advantage over international goods due to an undervalued Chinese yuan.

In 2010, exports of private enterprises in China will account for more than 35% of total exports, up from 20% in 2005, the ministry said.

The ministry also said it is targeting retail sales growth of more than 11% a year under its five-year plan. It said outbound direct investment should total US$60 billion in five years’ time. (Dow Jones)