China trade surplus with US hits record high of $323 billion
BEIJING – China’s politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States surged to a record $323.3 billion in 2018 as a tariff battle with Washington intensified.
Chinese customs data released Monday showed December exports to the U.S. contracted 3.5 percent compared with a year earlier, however, as President Donald Trump’s punitive tariffs hit in a fight over Chinese technology ambitions.
Exports to the United States held up through 2018 despite Trump’s tariff increases as exporters rushed to fill orders. But forecasters say American orders are set to decline sharply.
For the year, exports rose 11.3 percent to $478.4 billion while imports of American goods rose just 0.7 percent over 2017, reflecting the impact of Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs and encouragement to importers to buy more from other suppliers instead of the United States.
China’s global exports rose 7.1 percent to $2.5 trillion in 2018, down from the 7.9 percent rate for 2017. Imports rose 12.9 percent to $2.1 trillion, down from the previous year’s 15.9 percent.
The country’s global trade surplus was $352 billion.
Trump has repeatedly expressed frustration with China’s yawning trade gap with the United States, and the latest data might fuel demands by hardliners in Washington to punish Beijing.
Global weakness in demand for Chinese goods adds to pressure to resolve the tariff battle at a time when the ruling Communist Party also is trying to moderate an economic slowdown.
“The external environment is still complicated and severe,” a customs agency spokesman, Li Kuiwen, said at a news conference.
Li cited potential dangers including rising “protectionism and unilateralism,” a possible slowdown in global growth and a decline in cross-border investment.
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