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China Becomes Israel's 2nd Largest Importer in 2007

Chinese exports to Israel surpassed Germany's in 2007, making China Israel's second largest importing country, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.

Imports from China grew to US$4.6 billion in 2007 from US$3.2 billion in 2006, the bureau said.

In 2006, Germany was the second largest exporter of goods to Israel excluding diamonds. Its exports to the Jewish country rose to US$3.3 billion in 2007 from US$3.1 billion in 2006.

Analysts said that the increase in Chinese imports was part of a trend of growth that would include a wider variety of products over time.

"The big difference is that Israel will start importing an increasing amount of high-tech equipment, not just consumer equipment," Amos Yudan, Chairman of the Israel China Chamber of Commerce, told Xinhua.

"The Israeli market will understand that China is not only supplying cheap materials but also items which are really high-tech," Yudan said, noting that some Chinese high-tech equipments were already being imported.

"This is a trend that is likely to change the trade between Israel and China," he said.

Yudan noted that Israeli exports to China would also witness a yearly increase of 15 to 20 percent, noting that the exports of some products, including fertilizer and potash from the Dead Sea, will surely grow.

Israeli exports of medical apparatus and communications technology to China were also likely to rise, he said.

Over the past five years, Chinese exports to Israel have more than quadrupled while the imports from the United States, the top exporter to Israel, were nearly unchanged between 2002 and 2006.

In 2007, US exports to Israel rose to US$8.1 billion from US$6.2 billion in 2006.

Israel's total imports, 43 percent of which were from Europe, were up at US$56.6 billion in 2007 from US$47.8 billion in 2006. Excluding diamonds, Israeli imports rose to US$46.6 billion in 2007 from US$38.8 billion in 2006.

Countries from which Israel imported more than a billion dollars worth in goods, excluding diamonds, included Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Japan, and South Korea.

Including diamonds, Belgium ranked third after China with US$4 billion in exports to Israel, while Israel's imports from Russia, Switzerland and India were all above one billion dollars.

However, some analysts downplayed the effect of the increase in Chinese exports to Israel, saying it did not carry any immediate importance for the Jewish country.

"It is simply part of the global trend of China's growth and is not just specific to Sino-Israeli relations. The fact that Chinese exports surpassed Germany's doesn't really mean much for the Israeli economy," Inon Dafni, chief economist of the Israel Discount Bank said.

But Yudan noted that the increase in Chinese imports to Israel was not paralleled by the increase in Israeli exports to China, saying that the balance of trade has become more difficult than before with the disparity.

(Xinhua News Agency August 28, 2008)

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