China trade surplus drops, but not with US

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China trade surplus drops, but not with US

China's trade surplus with the Unites States widened in 2017 while total foreign trade volume maintained rapid growth, customs data showed Friday.

In November, China imported no iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea, the second full month of the United Nations trade sanctions.

The European Union, US and ASEAN remain China's top three trade partners, representing almost 42 percent of the total volume, while trade with Russia, Poland and Kazakhstan saw rapid growth of between 20 and 40 percent due to the new Silk Road scheme. Prices surged 46 percent past year, while Chinese iron ore prices jumped 16 percent.

Imports for the whole of 2017 jumped 27 percent from 2016 to a record of 68.57 million tonnes.

"LNG imports last month reached new highs according to our cargo monitoring and pipeline imports from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan also ramped from previous month", said Diao Zhouwei, analyst of IHS Markit.

Exports - a key driver of China's economic expansion in 2017 - rose 7.9% to $2.26 trillion, the highest rate since 2011, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs.

Imports of soybeans hit their second-highest monthly total in December of 9.55 million tonnes, and a record 95.54 million tonnes for the year.

The import growth was fuelled for the second year in a row by independent refineries as the government allowed more firms to import crude, although some of them were forced to scale back operations as authorities stepped up environmental checks.

Refiners churned out a sizeable amount of blending components, such as mixed aromatics and diesel substitute "raw white oil", that are not captured in official output data, Tee said.

The demand for natural gas has prompted state oil companies to look overseas for new gas sources.

China's exports to North Korea in December declined 23.4 percent from a year earlier to $260 million, Huang told reporters.

"The record high trade surplus is likely to lead to more trade disputes between China and the USA", said Tommy Xie, an economist at Singaporean bank OCBC.

Some economists and market analysts expect that, in the very least, 2018 is likely to bring plenty of trade fiction, and US penalties on some Chinese imports.

With the plan to heat millions of homes with the fuel proving overambitious, and leading to shortages, there was also a 3.2 percent month-on-month boost in coal imports in December after the government eased restrictions on imports to keep the country warm.

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