China commerce minister voted out

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SummaryChina's commerce minister was blocked from a spot on the ruling Communist Party's elite body.

of increasing protectionism.

China's leaders set a goal for 10 percent export growth this year, but it is more likely to come in at around 7 percent as the world has struggled to recover from financial crisis.

DEFENDED RECORD

Some experts suggest that Chen's age was the main factor in his ouster.

Minister Chen didn't get onto the Central Committee because of his age. He was born in 1949 and that makes him too old to serve a full term, said a Commerce Ministry official who declined to be identified.

But exceptions to the mandatory retirement age of 65 are often made for cabinet ministers and provincial governors and politicians can become a vice premier before they turn 68.

Du Qinglin, 66, a vice chairman to parliament's advisory body, was just elected to the Central Committee.

At a news conference last week on the sidelines of the congress, Chen declined to answer questions about whether he was being considered for a vice premier post, but he defended the ministry's record at the World Trade Organisation.

When you consider the volume of trade cases in which China is involved, we've won quite a few, Chen said. But we haven't bragged about our wins, whereas some of our foreign colleagues have trumpeted theirs.

Analysts said Chen had a reputation as a competent and moderate minister, suggesting his performance may not have been at the centre of his failure to secure a central committee seat, and despite the questions that are bound to arise, policy would probably not change.

China's overall trade policy is not set by the ministry, but by the central government, said He Weiwen, director of the China-U.S. Trade Research Centre at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

Under Chen, the ministry has increased its use of WTO legal processes, in part to gain experience. China has a relatively short history of participating in multilateral institutions and while it has lost most of WTO cases filed against it, most countries defending against complaints have the same problem.

Scott Kennedy, director of the Research Centre for Chinese Politics and Business at Indiana University said Chen's departure from the Central Committee was puzzling and political motives could be at play.

I don't think he could be punished for his record as minister of commerce. I think overall he's done a pretty decent job with the hand he has been dealt, Kennedy said.

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