China Dec imports from North Korea down 81.6 pct y/y - China customs

A worker watches as cargo trucks move through a shipping port in Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong province. – AP

Exports last month rose 10.9 percent year-on-year to US$231.7 billion, down from the previous month's 12.3 percent growth, customs data showed yesterday.

Chinese trade has been unexpectedly strong in the face of forecasts that economic growth will cool as Beijing tightens controls on credit to slow a rise in debt.

The European Union, US and ASEAN remain China's top three trade partners, representing almost 42 percent of the total volume, while trade with Russia, Poland and Kazakhstan saw rapid growth of between 20 and 40 percent due to the new Silk Road scheme.

That left the country with a trade surplus of US$54.69 billion for the month, according to a Reuters calculation based on official data.

It will be hard to keep up double-digit trade growth this year given global uncertainties and a high comparison base, Huang said.

Just how badly could Trump's threatened 45pc tariff hurt China?

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Commodities imports were mixed, with copper purchases down 8.2 per cent year-on-year by volume in December while coal and natural gas imports were up. Imports for the full year were 4.69 million tonnes, the lowest since 2013, customs said, after a weak first half.

Strength in Chinese exports "is bound to add to US-China trade tensions", Kuijs said.

The world's second-largest economy had a surplus of $25.55 billion in December, data showed, compared to $27.87 billion in November.

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.

"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".

China's excess production capacity has emerged as a major trade irritant for the world's leading economic powers, prompting them to consider new steps to protect domestic industries and jobs from a flood of Chinese imports.

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