China says trade declines will ease after March but 2016 will be severe

A crane moves a container at a container port in Qingdao, China.
A crane moves a container at a container port in Qingdao, China.PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Declines in China's foreign trade will ease after March, though trade conditions are expected to be more severe this year than in 2015, a spokesman at the Commerce Ministry said on Wednesday (March 16).

"There is increasing growth momentum in foreign trade," Shen Danyang told reporters in Beijing. "We expect declines in trade will gradually ease after March."

China's February exports posted their biggest fall since May 2009, while imports also missed forecasts, slumping for the 16th straight month.

China's leaders meeting at the annual session of parliament this month did not specify a goal for trade this year after repeatedly missing targets in recent years, reflecting deep uncertainty about global demand.

Danyang blamed the weak trade performance in January and February on the Lunar New Year holidays, saying the long holiday and festivities disrupted business activity.

"But the trade situation this year will be worse and more complex than that in 2015," Mr Shen cautioned.

The ministry spokesman also said China's non-financial foreign direct investment (FDI), a gauge of the health of the external economy, rose 1.8 per cent in February from a year earlier to US$8.44 billion.

Previously, the ministry said FDI for January-to-February rose 2.7 per cent from a year earlier to US$22.52 billion.