BEIJING (AP) — China’s import and export growth slowed in September amid shipping bottlenecks and other disruptions combined with coronavirus outbreaks, according to customs data reported Wednesday.
The report showed exports rose 28.1% to $305.7 billion. That was slightly faster than the 26% increase logged in August, and better than economists’ forecasts. Imports rose 17.6% to $240 billion, less than the previous month’s 33%.
This year’s trade figures have been distorted by comparison with 2020, when global demand plunged in the first half after governments shut factories and shops to fight the pandemic. Chinese exporters reopened after the ruling Communist Party declared the virus under control in March 2020, while its foreign competitors still were hampered by anti-virus curbs.
“China’s foreign trade performance is leading the field among the world’s major economies, and China has seen an increase in its international market share,” said Li Kuiwen, a spokesman for the customs agency.
“Taking into account the impact of the high base of foreign trade in 2020, the growth rate of imports and exports may fall in the fourth quarter of this year, but the overall upward trend of China’s foreign trade will not change, and rapid growth throughout the year is still expected,” Li said.
Economists have forecast that surging global demand for Chinese goods will level off as anti-disease controls ease and entertainment, travel and other service industries reopen.
“The bigger problem for exports is that foreign demand has been buoyed by large stimulus in developed economies and shifts in consumption patterns due to the pandemic, both of which are likely to unwind over the coming quarters,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a commentary.
He said imports are also likely to weaken as property construction slows and commodity prices retreat after surging in the initial rush of manufacturing as economies loosened pandemic-related restrictions.
China‘s global trade surplus rose to $68 billion in September from $52 billion in August. That was the highest level since 2015.
The politically sensitive trade surplus with the U.S. rose to $42 billion in September from nearly $38 billion in August, the report said.
More than three years after former U.S. President Donald Trump launched a tariff war against Beijing, his successor Joe Biden’s administration has not said if it will agree to Chinese demands to roll back some of those punitive duties.
Biden’s top trade official, Katherine Tai, said last week that she planned frank talks with Beijing about complaints over policies that foreign businesses say give their Chinese competitors an unfair advantage.
Southeast Asia was China‘s biggest export market in September, reflecting expanding trade ties as countries lower tariffs and dismantle some barriers as part of regional trade agreements.
The data released Wednesday showed strong growth in shipments of vehicles, mobile phones, consumer electronics and auto parts in January-September.
Overall growth in two-way trade rose 15% in July-September, slowing from 25% year-on-year growth in the previous quarter.
General Administration of Customs of China (in Chinese): www.customs.gov.cn
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