China’s trade surplus with US hits record high
China’s 2018 trade surplus with the United States surged to a record US$323.3 billion but exports contracted in December, as the delayed impact of President Donald Trump’s tariff hikes started to hurt demand.
Exports to the United States in 2018 rose 11.3 percent to $478.4 billion despite Trump’s punitive duties in a fight over Chinese technology ambitions, customs data showed Monday. Imports of American goods rose just 0.7 percent over 2017, reflecting Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs and encouragement to importers to buy more from non-US suppliers.
In December, Chinese exports to the United States that had held up through much of the year fell 3.5 percent from a year earlier to $40.3 billion. Sales to the US market had kept growing by double digits in previous months as Chinese exporters rushed to fill orders, but forecasters said American orders would slump once the full impact of Trump’s penalties hit.
The slowdown adds to pressure on Beijing to resolve the battle with Trump at a time when the ruling Communist Party is also trying to reverse an economic slowdown.
“The external environment is still complicated and severe,” a customs agency spokesman, Li Kuiwen, said at a news conference.
Li cited dangers including “protectionism and unilateralism”--a reference to Trump’s import controls, a possible slowdown in global economic growth, and a decline in cross-border investment.
US and Chinese officials ended a three-day negotiating session last week with no sign of agreements or word on what their next step would be.
“The record US trade deficit with China will sit uncomfortably with the Trump administration,” Nick Marro of the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a report. “That may cast a shadow over the next round of trade talks.”
Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed on Dec. 1 to postpone additional tariff hikes by 90 days while they negotiated. But penalties of up to 25 percent already imposed on billions of dollars of
each other’s goods remain in place, raising the cost for American and Chinese buyers of soybeans, medical equipment and other goods.
Trump is pressing Beijing to roll back plans for state-led creation of Chinese champions in robotics and other tech fields. Washington, Europe and other trading partners complain such policies violate its market-opening obligations. Chinese officials have suggested initiatives such as “Made in China 2025” might be opened to foreign companies, but they refuse to abandon strategies they see as a path to prosperity and more global influence. /
QUALITY CONTROL. A worker checks on soybeans at a processing factory in Xiaotun Township of Dafang County in Bijie, Guizhou Province.