China’s trade surplus swells to $877.6b as exports grow

China’s trade surplus swelled to a record $877.6 billion last year as exports rose despite weakening U.S. and European demand and anti-virus controls that temporarily shut down Shanghai and other industrial centers.

Exports increased 7% from a year earlier to $3.95 trillion, decelerating from 2021’s explosive 29.9% gain, customs data showed this weekend. Imports edged up 1.1% to 2.7 trillion, cooling from the previous year’s 30.1% rise as economic growth slowed and consumer spending weakened.

The country’s politically volatile global trade surplus expanded by 29.7% from 2021’s record, already the highest ever for any economy.

“China’s foreign trade and exports showed strong resilience in the face of many difficulties and challenges,” said a customs agency spokesperson, Lu Daliang, at a news conference.

Export growth slumped late in the year after the Federal Reserve and other central banks raised interest rates to cool record-setting inflation by slowing economic activity.

December exports fell for a third month, contracting by 10.1% from a year earlier to $306.1 billion. That was bigger than November’s 9% slide.

Last year’s exports to the United States edged up 1% over 2021 to $581.8 billion despite tariff hikes by President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, that still are in place on many goods. Chinese imports of American goods declined 1% to $177.6 billion.

China’s annual trade surplus with the United States, one of the irritants that prompted Trump to hike tariffs, widened by 1.8% from 2021 to $404.1 billion.

Forecasters expect Chinese export growth to weaken further as the possibility of recession in Western economies increases. Some expect this year’s exports to shrink.

“China’s exports are likely to contract until the middle of the year,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a report this week.

Earlier in 2022, trade also was hampered by anti-virus controls that shut down Shanghai and other industrial centers in March for up to two months, disrupting manufacturing and global shipping.

In December, exports to the United States fell 19.5% from a year earlier to $301.1 billion. Imports of American goods shrank 7.3% to $228.1 billion. That produced a $78 billion surplus, down 17.5% from a year earlier.

Exports to the 27-nation European Union tumbled 39.5% to $43.6 billion. Imports of European goods fell 31.3% to $24 billion. China’s trade surplus with Europe fell 50% to $19.6 billion.

“Downward pressure on the world economy is increasing,” warned the customs agency’s Lu.

Also in December, Chinese imports from Russia, mostly oil and gas, rose 8.3% over a year earlier to $9 billion. MDT/AP

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