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February 11, 2017

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China’s foreign trade grows past market expectations in January

CHINA’S foreign trade grew past market expectations in January, giving a boost of confidence in the economy and external demand.

China’s exports in yuan-denominated terms rose 15.9 percent year on year to 1.26 trillion yuan (US$183 billion) last month, faster than the 0.6 percent gain in December.

Imports jumped 25.2 percent, more than double the 10.8 percent rise in December, according to figures released by the General Administration of Customs yesterday.

The volume of foreign trade was 2.18 trillion yuan in January, up 19.6 percent year on year.

That led to a monthly trade surplus of 354.53 billion yuan, down 2.7 percent from a year earlier.

In US dollar terms, exports rose 7.9 percent, higher than market expectations of 3.3 percent, according to a Reuters poll. Imports grew 16.7 percent, beating expectations of 10 percent.

By regions, China’s trade with European Union, its largest trading partner, rose 14.1 percent year on year, while that with the US jumped 21.9 percent, with ASEAN countries up 18.8 percent, and with Japan rising 18.4 percent.

“The rebound of trade data was partly due to the low base of January last year,” said Deng Haiqing, chief economist with JZ Securities.

But that was not the only reason, Deng said, noting that some economic indicators since this year have actually showed that China’s exports and imports were starting to warm up.

China’s manufacturing sector has expanded for the sixth month in a row, with the country’s manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index coming in at 51.3 in January, according to National Bureau of Statistics data. The indexes for exports and imports edged up to 50.3 and 50.7 respectively, staying above the 50 demarcation line for three straight months.

“China’s trade performance appears to have stabilized, consistent with the recovery in the regional supply chain,” Australia and New Zealand Banking Group said in a note yesterday.

“Imports rebounded significantly in January, led by commodities. While the low base in 2016 could partly explain the strong rebound in imports, we think it is also likely related to the solid investment in the property market.”

However, the new year will also bring new challenges and uncertainties to China’s foreign trade. In addition to the extended world economic downturn and China’s restructuring efforts, which could hamper trade growth in some traditional sectors, the rise of trade protectionism will be a growing restraint on China’s exports.

“The global trade situation is deteriorating and will become even grimmer in 2017,” said Wang Hejun, head of the trade remedy and investigation bureau under the Ministry of Commerce, who predicts that Chinese steel and aluminum products will continue to be the main targets of trade investigations.

Chinese exporters suffered a record 119 trade remedy investigations initiated by 27 countries and regions last year, 36.8 percent more than 2015.

Weighed on by trade remedies, China’s full-year exports in 2016 fell 2 percent in yuan-denominated terms, and imports added slightly by 0.6 percent, customs data showed. Its trade surplus dropped 9.1 percent.


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