Sat, Jan 13, 2018 - Page 10 News List

China’s trade growth cools as barrier complaints rise

AP, BEIJING

China’s trade growth cooled last month in a possible sign of weaker global and domestic demand, but last year’s total exports rose 7.9 percent year-on-year, while imports were up 15.9 percent.

Exports last month rose 10.9 percent year-on-year to US$231.7 billion, down from the previous month’s 12.3 percent growth, customs data showed yesterday.

Imports expanded 4.5 percent to US$177.1 billion, down from November’s 17.7 percent gain.

The politically volatile global trade surplus stood at US$422.5 billion, down from US$486 billion in 2016.

Beijing faces mounting pressure from Washington and Europe over complaints about trade barriers and that Chinese exports of unfairly low-priced steel and some other goods are threatening jobs abroad.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned this week during a visit to Beijing that Chinese leaders must open their markets or face the risk other nations might close theirs.

US President Donald Trump’s administration is investigating whether Beijing improperly pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. Results are expected to be announced this month.

“Downside risks remain, in particular from more forceful US trade restrictions on Chinese exports,” Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics Ltd said in a report.

Strength in Chinese exports “is bound to add to US-China trade tensions,” Kuijs said.

Chinese imports grew more slowly than exports for the first time since mid-2016, “reflecting the diverging prospects for growth in China and the rest of the world,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics Ltd said in a report.

They are “a sign that domestic demand may have weakened at the end of last year,” he said.

For the full year, exports rose to nearly US$2.3 trillion, while imports expanded to US$1.8 trillion.

The import slowdown is a blow to China’s Asian neighbors, for which it is the biggest market, and nations such as Australia and Brazil that supply it iron ore, oil and other raw materials.

“We have long since expected China’s domestic demand and imports to slow in 2018 on gradually tighter monetary and financial policies, and slower real estate activity,” Kuijs said.

China’s trade surplus with the EU, its biggest trading partner, stood at US$14.6 billion last month. For the full year, it was US$127.2 billion.

The monthly surplus with the US was US$25.6 billion. For the year, it was US$275.8 billion.

Data reported by the US government often shows a bigger gap with China because Beijing’s figures reflect only the initial destination, such as Hong Kong or another port, for exports bound for the US and other foreign markets.

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