China posts first trade deficit in three years as imports surge

Mar 10, 2017, 00:21
China posts first trade deficit in three years as imports surge

China's imports surged nearly 40 per cent last month, data showed on Wednesday (Mar 8), fuelled by higher commodity prices and strong domestic demand, bolstering hopes that the world's number two economy is getting back on track.

Nonetheless, if both January and February data are combined in order to eliminate distortions from the Chinese Lunar New Year, then exports were ahead by 11% and imports by 34.1%, Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics, said.

The last time China reported a trade deficit was in February 2014 when the imports exceeded exports by US$31.5 billion.

President Donald Trump took office with a pledge to boost annual economic growth to four percent and renegotiate trade deals in favor of the United States. Total foreign trade reached 1.71 trillion yuan (nearly 250 billion USA dollars), up 21.9 percent year on year.

Condon sees exports surging 10 percent this year, in yuan terms, and the trade surplus narrowing slightly to 3.2 trillion yuan ($463 billion) from 3.4 trillion yuan last year. Economists had been expecting a $26.55 billion surplus.

Last year, Chinese imports decreased by 5.5 percent, while exports went down 7.7 percent. Widening deficits were also recorded with Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Imports of automobiles and parts climbed to a record, while petroleum products were the highest in two years.

The trade deficit is expected to trim overall economic growth by around one-half percentage point this year.

For January, exports rose 0.9% to $128.0bn with a significant increase in exports of industrial supplies and materials while automobile exports also increased.

Carrie Gracie: Could China's Trump tactics actually be working?

China's new commerce minister Zhong Shan said the growth pattern in China's foreign trade would be adjusted from simply expanding the volume to improving structure and quality, pledging more effort to reinforce China's role as a big trading nation and push for its increasing trade prowess.

The data comes after China slapped a surprise ban in mid-February on imports from North Korea, the country's main supplier of anthracite coal.

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