Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Beijing, China (4E) – Another month and again, another record for China. China’s annual trade surplus with the United States reached the highest level on record in December, marching upwards to $57.06 billion, the largest since December 2015.
And here’s another record: for all of 2018, the surplus rose by 17.2% to $323.32 billion, which is the highest level yet. Surprisingly, total bilateral trade rose by 5.7% compared to the levels seen in 2017 despite Trump’s trade war with China that began in July, said China’s General Administration of Customs.
Analysts expected the December surplus to increase to only $51.5 billion after rising to $44.71 billion in November. As in November, front loading of China’s exports to the U.S. explained the hefty number.
On the other hand, China’s monthly trade surplus with the U.S. fell to $29.87 billion compared to $35.54 billion in November. Imports from the United States grew by 0.7% year-on-year, far outpaced by a 11.3% increase in the value of exports to the U.S.
Good news for the U.S.: the value of China’s imports and exports fell by the largest value since 2016 in the 12 months to December.
Analysts said the declines reflect the reversal of a front-loading in orders before higher import tariffs were introduced in China and the U.S. earlier in the year.
Including trade with all countries, China’s trade surplus with the world fell to the lowest level since 2013. The value of Chinese imports and exports was the lowest for the year in December, adding to evidence all is not well in China today.
The value of exports plunged 7.6% year-on-year in U.S. dollar terms, coming in well below the median economist forecast for an increase of 5%. Exports fell by 4.4% in U.S. dollar terms from December 2017, missing forecasts for an increase of 3%.
China’s year-on-year drop in imports and exports was the largest since the second half of 2016. The drop mostly reflects the reversal of front-loading of trade orders before increased trade tariffs were implemented by both the U.S. and China earlier in 2018.
Compared to 2017, China’s trade surplus with the world (including the U.S.) fell to $351.8 billion, the smallest since 2013. The value of imports rose by 15.8% in U.S. dollar-denominated terms, faster than the 9.9% rise in exports.
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