China surpassed the United States as the world's top exporter of laptop computers, mobile phones and other information and communications technology devices in 2004, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said on Monday.

China exported $180 billion worth of so-called ICT goods in 2004, compared with U.S. exports of $149 billion, the OECD, a free-market agency funded by 30 countries, said.

OECD officials said that China was likely to take top spot in 2005 too, but hard proof would take many months to collect.

The United States was world leader in 2003 with $137 billion worth of exports of ICT goods, followed by China with $123 billion, the OECD said in a statement.

"The data show a shift toward more trade between China and other Asian countries, with a corresponding decline in ICT imports to this region from the European Union and the U.S.," it said.

China's Lenovo Group Ltd. has long dominated the Chinese computer market, the world's second largest, but it burst onto the world stage this year as the third-biggest maker of computers with the purchase of International Business Machines Corp.'s (IBM) PC business, behind Dell Inc. (DELL) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ).

China used to rely heavily on Europe and the United States for computer chips and other components but is now turning to suppliers in Japan, Taipei, South Korea and Malaysia, the OECD said.

"China itself is also manufacturing and exporting more electronic components than ever before, with these now forming China's second-largest export item, after computers and related equipment," it said.