China's trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, its third-largest trading partner, rose 10.9 % year on year to 443.6 billion U.S. dollars. Its trade with Japan meanwhile contracted 5.1 % year on year, to 312.55 billion U.S. dollars. "Today's trade data make us quite comfortable with our neither bullish nor bearish 2014 GDP and trade forecasts," Lu said. Exports, along with retail sales and investment, have been one of the three main drivers for China's rapid economic growth. External demand supports about 12 % of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and absorbs some 35 % of industrial output. Lu predicted stronger tailwinds, thanks to faster U.S. and European growth, than headwinds, owing to weak emerging markets and the strong Renminbi, for China's exports. But headline export growth could still drop from 7.9 % in 2013 to 7.6 % in 2014 due to fake reporting of exports during January to April 2013, as some people took advantage of arbitrage opportunities in early 2013 over different exchange rates between the U.S. dollar and the onshore and offshore Renminbi, he said. Lu forecast China's annual export growth could rise to 9.6 % in 2014, contributing about 40 basic points to GDP growth. Headline import growth could tick up from 7.0 % in 2013 to 7.9 % in 2014 on robust domestic demand including some restocking of raw materials. Headline trade surplus could rise slightly to 280 billion U.S. dollars in 2014, he also forecast.