China’s import and export growth slowed last month amid shipping bottlenecks and other disruptions combined with COVID-19 outbreaks, according to customs data reported yesterday.
The report showed exports rose 28.1 percent year-on-year to US$305.7 billion. That was slightly faster than the 26 percent increase logged in August and better than economists’ forecasts.
Imports rose 17.6 percent to US$240 billion, less than the previous month’s 33 percent.
This year’s trade figures have been distorted by comparison with last year, when global demand plunged in the first half after governments shut factories and shops to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“China’s foreign trade performance is leading the field among the world’s major economies and China has seen an increase in its international market share,” Chinese Customs Administration spokesman Li Kuiwen (李奎文) said.
“Taking into account the impact of the high base of foreign trade in 2020, the growth rate of imports and exports may fall in the fourth quarter of this year, but the overall upward trend of China’s foreign trade will not change and rapid growth throughout the year is still expected,” Li said.
Economists have forecast that surging global demand for Chinese goods would level off as disease prevention measures are eased, and entertainment, travel and other service industries reopen.
“The bigger problem for exports is that foreign demand has been buoyed by large stimulus in developed economies and shifts in consumption patterns due to the pandemic, both of which are likely to unwind over the coming quarters,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a commentary.
He said imports are also likely to weaken as property construction slows and commodity prices retreat after surging in the initial rush of manufacturing as economies loosened disease prevention measures.
China’s global trade surplus rose to US$68 billion last month from US$52 billion in August. That was the highest level since 2015.
The politically sensitive trade surplus with the US rose to US$42 billion from nearly US$38 billion in August, the report said.
Southeast Asia was China’s biggest export market last month, reflecting expanding trade ties as nations lower tariffs and dismantle some barriers as part of regional trade agreements.
The data showed strong growth in shipments of vehicles, smartphones, auto parts and consumer electronics in the first nine months of the year.
Overall growth in two-way trade rose 15 percent in the third quarter, slowing from 25 percent year-on-year growth in the previous quarter.
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