China to offer $398 million in loan subsidies to importers

China will offer 2.5 billion yuan ($398 million) in loan subsidies to importers for purchases of advanced technological equipment, raw materials and other components, the Ministry of Finance said on Wednesday.

The move is the latest central government effort to use fiscal spending to prop up growth and balance trade.

The money is allocated from the central budget. The funding has seen a 25 percent increase from last year, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Beijing has allocated a total of 9.5 billion yuan to offer interest discounts to importers since 2008, when the specialized fund was established.

Chinese imports fell 2.6 percent in August from a year earlier and exports rose only 2.7 percent, both missing investor expectations.

Beijing has already rolled out a slew of measures to help exporters and importers facing stiffening headwinds, including cutting red tape, easing access to loans and speeding up refunds on tax rebates.

The Finance Ministry said last month it would suspend inspection and quarantine fees for all goods coming in and out of China for the rest of this year to shield exporters and importers from the global economic downturn.

China is expected to report on Oct 18 that annual economic growth probably slowed for a seventh straight quarter in the July-September period to the weakest level since the depths of the global financial crisis, a Reuters poll showed, reinforcing the case for further policy stimulus.

(Reporting By Xiaoyi Shao and Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Kim Coghill)