Economic Watch: China records sound Q1 trade, surplus narrows

Fraser Hammond - China to Reduce Tariffs on Imported Cars

China's trade surplus with the United States surged 19.4 percent to $58.25 billion (€47.22 billion) between January and March, as exports gained 14.8 percent from the same period a year earlier, while imports rose only 8.9 percent.

Total trade with the U.S. rose 6.3% in the quarter, customs said.

The latest readings on the health of China's trade sector are unlikely to ease tensions following weeks of tit-for-tat tariff threats by Washington and Beijing, though they suggest China's economy is still in relatively solid shape.

Gao noted that formal talks to resolve the trade dispute between the US and China were not yet underway, and that the Trump administration had shown a lack of "sincerity" in its overtures.

So far the large threats wielded by both sides have not been implemented.

During Trump's first year in office the surplus reached record highs - $375 billion by United States counting, or $276 billion according to Chinese data.

Chinese imports increased by 14.4 per cent, leaving China with a US$4.98 billion trade deficit for the month. But the solid global growth outlook may provide some buffer.

Forecasters have been expecting Chinese economic growth to weaken since late past year after regulators tightened controls to cool a boom in bank lending and real estate sales they worry is driving a risky rise in debt.

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Analysts expected China would record a trade surplus of US$27.21 billion for last month, from February's surplus of US$33.75 billion. Shipments of copper, crude oil, iron ore and soybeans all rose from the previous month.

Huang Songping, spokesperson for the GAC, told a press briefing that the relatively fast trade growth was a result of a mild global economic recovery that has given rise to robust trading activities, as well as the sound development of the domestic economy, which has strengthened demand for imports.

China's exports rode a global trade boom a year ago, expanding at the fastest pace since 2013 and serving as one of the key drivers behind the economy's forecast-beating expansion.

Washington says China's $375-billion trade surplus with the United States is unacceptable, and has demanded Beijing reduce it by $100 billion immediately.

"Through a long-term and comprehensive program to demonstrate the value of soy-based feeds, ASA and the U.S. Soybean Export Council helped build demand for soybeans to the level of Chinese imports today", Heisdorffer said.

Chinese exports to the USA grew 14.8 per cent in the first quarter compared with the previous year but imports from the United States rose 8.9 per cent year-on-year in the same period.

The country pledged measures including significantly lowering import tariffs for vehicles, while reducing import tariffs for some other products, and enhancing protection of intellectual property rights.

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