China's December imports growth weakest in a year, exports beat forecast

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China's 2017 trade surplus with the US was $275.81 billion, the country's customs data showed Friday, according to Reuters.

As North Korea's biggest trading partner and main source of aid, China holds influence over the pariah state.

But total trade surplus in 2017 registered a decline of 14.2 percent, from about $490 billion in 2016.

Iron ore demand and steel output are expected to be at 1.12 billion tonnes in 2018 and 838 million tonnes respectively, the China Metallurgical Industry Planning and Research Institute said last month.

The Asian nation's exports last year expanded by 7.9 percent, while imports soared by 15.9 percent for the year.

The trade deficit with China is the U.S.'s largest with any trading partner and 2017's is the biggest with China in the almost five decades for which records exist.

Trump has put tackling the growing trade deficit with China and boosting US firms' access to its markets among his top priorities since coming to power.

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Beijing has successfully fended off Trump's campaign rhetoric by making trade concessions, further opening up China's financial markets and signing US$250 billion worth of deals with the USA during the president's Beijing visit in November.

China's trade figures don't match US figures due to different calculation methods.

Huang Songping, a commerce ministry spokesman, said the numbers reflect the "mild recovery of the world economy previous year".

ANZ analyst Betty Wang said that even though a broad-based bilateral trade war is "highly unlikely" in 2018, it is possible that the USA will take "unilateral actions on Chinese exports in specific sectors".

Imports grew an even slower pace of 4.5 percent year-on-year in December, the General Administration of Customs said, which was the weakest since they rose 3.1 percent in December 2016.

In fact, the world's second-largest economy performed better than expected, with most indicators showing a positive trend. Imports missed analysts' forecast of 13.0 percent growth and were a sharp decrease from the 17.7 percent rise in the previous month.

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