China’s 2018 exports up 9.9%, imports gain 15.8%, but trade surplus slumps 16.2%

Although the country’s trade surplus with the United States grew by 17.0% from a year ago for last year, overall trade surplus slowed to the lowest since 2013, embedding signs of a likely slowdown in trade for this year.

A port in Shanghai Source: Bloomberg

Exports for China for the full 12 months of last year showed the highest growth since 2011, the country’s General Administration of Customs showed on Monday. Although the country’s trade surplus with the United States (US) grew by 17.0% from a year ago for last year, overall trade surplus slowed to the lowest since 2013, embedding signs of a likely slowdown in trade for this year.

Total trade for last year reached US$4.62 trillion, a 12.6% increase from 2017. Exports rose by 9.9% on a year-on-year basis, while imports climbed 15.8%.

Meanwhile, overall trade surplus was at US$351.76 billion, down by 16.2%. Trade surplus with the US, grew 17.0% from a year ago at US$323.32 billion for last year, the highest on record since 2006, according to Reuters data.

For the month of December, exports fell by 4.4% from a year ago, while imports sank 7.6%, the worst results since 2016. China’s export and import numbers had worsened from November, due partly to the effects from the trade war, and China’s growth slowdown.

China’s economy is still growing steadily in 2019, but it faces external headwinds, said spokesman for the customs administration Li Kuiwen.

Exporters had seen a strong start earlier last year but the trade conflict between the US and China posed a threat on the flow of goods due to the trade tariffs both parties had imposed on each other subsequently. In October, exports for China rose due to a rise in orders as businesses ordered goods ahead of the further higher tariffs that could kick in due to the trade tensions.

China’s economic growth target likely to be lowered for this year

Last week, China was said to be planning to curtail its economic growth target for this year from last year’s rough target of 6.5%, to a range between 6.0% and 6.5% for this year. The proposed target is expected to be revealed in March this year, during the country’s annual parliamentary session, sources told Reuters.

The country has been missing expectations for its economic data in recent months, which are easy tell-tale signs of sputtering growth conditions. For the third quarter, China’s economy grew the weakest pace since the first quarter of 2009.

Gross domestic product (GDP) data for 2018 which is slated to be revealed later this month is expected to show China’s growth at around 6.6% for the full year, a pace of growth the slowest since 1990.

The Chinese Yuan was trading ¥6.76 against the greenback at 11.30am, Hong Kong time.


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