China Exports, Imports Up for First Time in Three Years

China Exports, Imports Up for First Time in Three Years

Analysts at Nomura say continued global growth may offer support, while possible United States protectionism could weigh on exports.

China held a $275.9-billion trade surplus with the USA last year, up roughly 10% from 2016.

The world's second-largest economy reported strong overall trade data for 2017.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly signaled tougher action on what he calls unfair practices that have lead to a massive trade deficit with China.

"I think the slowdown is really mild - mostly in line with seasonality", said Victor You, an analyst with CLSA in Hong Kong, who tracks China's iron ore, coal, copper and copper concentrate imports, as well as its exports of steel products and aluminium.

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.

ANZ analyst Betty Wang said that even though a broad-based bilateral trade war is "highly unlikely" in 2018, it is possible that the USA will take "unilateral actions on Chinese exports in specific sectors".

Chinese officials have threatened retaliation for any US penalties in closed-door meetings with American officials and companies. The U.S.is expected to release the findings of the investigation soon.

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Huang Songping, a commerce ministry spokesman, said the numbers reflect the "mild recovery of the world economy previous year".

"Uncertainty surrounding Sino-U.S. trade ties might be a key potential downside risk in the near term", she wrote in a report.

Imports grew an even slower pace of 4.5 percent year-on-year in December, the General Administration of Customs said, which was the weakest since they rose 3.1 percent in December 2016.

"Export growth declined slightly last month but remained healthy".

Buying eased in December as refiners and fuel distributors drew on inventories after hefty stockpiling in the previous month, said Seng-Yick Tee, analyst with SIA Energy.

However, Kujis of Oxford Economics believes import growth will only soften moderately this year, as the Chinese government has been careful not to let its tightening measures deal blows to the economy.

In 2016, China exported US$40.37 billion worth of goods to Taiwan while it imported US$139.2 billion, an annual decrease of 10.1 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, the data showed.

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