China trade surplus with US dropped 8.5% to US$296bil in 2019

  • China
  • Tuesday, 14 Jan 2020

A cargo ship loaded with containers makes its way at a port in Qingdao in China's eastern Shandong province on Tuesday (Jan 14). China's trade surplus with the United States narrowed last year as the world's two biggest economies exchanged punitive tariffs in a bruising trade war, official data showed on Tuesday, on the eve of a deal to ease tensions - AFP

BEIJING: China's trade surplus with the United States narrowed last year as the world's two biggest economies exchanged punitive tariffs in a bruising trade war, data showed Tuesday (Jan 14), just as the two prepare to sign a deal dialling down tensions.

The huge difference in trade traffic is a key bone of contention for Donald Trump in a long-running stand-off that has seen him impose tariffs on goods worth hundreds of billions of dollars, triggering retaliation from Beijing and jolting the global economy.

China's surplus came in at around US$295.8bil in 2019, down 8.5% from the previous year's record US$323.3bil, according to customs data.

In December, its surplus with the US was around US$23.2bil, from US$24.6bil the month before.

The mini trade deal announced last month will see Beijing buy an extra US$200bil of US products over a two-year period, according to Washington officials. China has yet to publicly confirm the figures.

The Trump administration called off new tariffs on Chinese-made goods such as electronics that were to take effect last month. It also halved those imposed on Sept 1 on US$120bil worth of products.

But Washington maintains 25% tariffs on about US$250bil worth of Chinese imports.

In a further sign of de-escalation, Washington on Monday removed the currency manipulator label it imposed on China in the summer.

At a news conference on Tuesday, spokesman for the customs administration Zou Zhiwu said that since November and December, Chinese imports from the US including of soybeans and pork have picked up.

Zou added that the increased imports from the US will not affect China's purchases from other countries.

He also said the trade tensions had "put some pressure on China's foreign trade and firms that largely trade with the US".

"Although our exports to the US have declined, the effectiveness of enterprises diversifying their markets has been significant," he said, adding that exports to non-US markets have risen and overall exports are still rising.

The signing of the new trade deal, which is part of a planned wider pact, will have an "important and positive significance" not just for China and the US but also the rest of the world, Zou said.

China's foreign trade volume fell slightly on-year in 2019, and its surplus with the world stood at US$421.5bil.

In December, China's exports rose 7.6 percent on-year, the growth since July and above the 2.9 percent forecast in a Bloomberg News survey. Imports surged 16.3 percent, far exceeding estimates.

For the full year, exports rose 0.5% while imports fell 2.8%. - AFP
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