China's foreign trade up 14.2 pct in 2017

Sergio Conner
January 13, 2018

China's exports and imports both increased for the first time in three years in 2017, official figures showed Friday, but trade tensions with the US and cooling domestic demand are clouding prospects this year.

Customs data issued Friday showed exports rose 10.9 percent in December over a year earlier to $231.7 billion, down from the previous month's 12.3 percent growth.

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

Demand for Chinese products is holding up as growth in major trade partners remains intact, and a feared trade war between China and the United States has yet to materialise.

"China's foreign trade continued to build on a solid foundation for steady growth, its potential being gradually unleashed", said customs spokesman Huang Songping.

Chinese customs will formally release data for trade with North Korea in the second half of the month, along with a breakdown by product. His administration has slapped anti-dumping tariffs on a range of Chinese imports, such as aluminum and steel, and toughened its stance on Chinese investment in the U.S.

He estimated that imports declined by the biggest margin in nearly two years in volume terms in December as purchases of industrial commodities plummeted.

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China and many trade-dependent countries have benefited from a year-long global exports boom that many economists expect will extend well into this year. For the year, it was US$275.8 billion.

Despite the strong year, moment is likely to wane, with surveys showing falling confidence and new orders in December.

By that data, last year's surplus is a record high, the wire service reported.

Economists say rising trade friction is a key risk for China.

As a result, the trade surplus rose to $54.69 billion in December, while it was forecast to fall to $37.4 billion.

"However, later this year, we believe real effective exchange rate appreciation and an increase in USA protectionism could weigh on Chinese export growth, narrowing the trade surplus further".

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly signaled tougher action on what he calls unfair practices that have lead to a massive trade deficit with China.

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