Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, expects to source around $9bn worth of Chinese-made products this year - about the same as it bought from the country in 2007. 

The retailer, a major buyer of Chinese-made shoes and clothing among other items, said Chinese suppliers have stayed improved efficiency and product quality in order to stay competitive amid higher inflation and a rising exchange rate.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing today (25 February), vice-chairman Mike Duke said: "China will continue to be a major production portion of direct purchases by Wal-Mart for a long time."

Wal-Mart last week unveiled a 17.5% hike in international sales in the fiscal year to 31 January to $90.6bn, or 24.2% of total sales.

The retailer operates 101 stores in China, and has a 35% stake in the parent company of Chinese hypermarket chain Trust-Mart.