China's global trade surplus fell 16.2pct in 2018: customs

China got off to a strong start in 2018 but pressure on the economy started to build later in the year as the United States and China began imposing tariffs on each other's goods and global demand started to cool

China December exports unexpectedly drop

China's December soybean imports plunged 40.1 percent from a year earlier, customs data showed on Monday, as it cut purchases from the United States, its second-largest supplier, because of the trade war between the two countries. It was the highest on record dating back to 2006, according to Reuters. But a deal for "a more lasting suspension of new tariffs" looks more likely.

In December 2018, therefore, China imported 9.23 million tons of gas, both by pipeline and as LNG, up 17 percent on the year.

"We believe this is because China and the USA are in different stages of development and it also reflects the highly complementarity nature of the economies", Mr Li said.

Analysts, however, are predicting that this positive growth is unlikely to continue for much longer unless a rapid resolution between the world's two largest economies is reached.

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Economic data from China are being closely watched for signs of damage inflicted by the trade war between Washington and Beijing.

Some observers say the trade war between the USA and China is evolving into a battle over technological supremacy, as shown by United States efforts to block the use of Huawei products in the 5G networks of leading industrial nations.

Total exports fell to United States dollars 221.25 billion in December, down 1.4 per cent from November, and 4.4 per cent from the same month in 2017. Imports also saw a shock drop, falling 7.6 per cent in their biggest decline since July 2016.

The surplus stood at a record-high $323.3 billion, compared to $275.8 billion recorded the year before.

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Exports fell due to softening global growth and as the drag from USA tariffs intensified, while imports also fell due to cooling domestic demand, said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics.

Russia-China trade turnover has grown significantly over recent years. "There's plenty of anecdotal evidence of layoffs in export-dependent provinces", including Guangdong on the south China coast. Even before Trump kicked off the latest escalation in trade tensions, Beijing was already trying to manage a slowdown in its economy after decades of breakneck growth. USA and Chinese officials ended a three-day negotiating session last week with no sign of agreements or word on what their next step would be.

The overall outlook is hardly rosy, said Evans-Pritchard.

Additionally, supplies appear to have cleared more slowly through ports, said Shanghai JC Intelligence's Tu, while domestic demand has also been weak, with soymeal alternatives in the market increasing. "Private enterprises contributed more than half to China's foreign trade growth in 2018, a bright spot of China's foreign trade development", he said.

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