China April exports, imports rise less than expected

Workers near a cargo ship at a port in Qingdao in China's Shandong province.
Workers near a cargo ship at a port in Qingdao in China's Shandong province.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's exports and imports rose in April but missed analysts' expectations, as domestic and foreign demand faltered and commodity prices fell.

China's April exports rose 8.0 per cent from a year earlier, missing analysts' expectations, while imports expanded 11.9 per cent, official data showed on Monday (May 8)

That left the country with a trade surplus of US$38.05 billion (S$53.4 billion) for the month, the General Administration of Customs said. In March, exports rose 16.4 per cent.

Imports were expected to have climbed 18 per cent, after rising 20.3 per cent in March.

Analysts were expecting China's trade surplus to have widened to US$35.50 billion in April from March's US$23.93 billion.

China's imports and exports are expected to stabilise and improve in the near future, the Ministry of Commerce said last week in its quarterly report on trends in the country's foreign trade.

Foreign trade is expected to face a better environment in 2017 compared with the past two years, the commerce ministry report said.

Exports to the United States rose 11.7 per cent in April from a year earlier, while imports from the US rose 1.5 per cent.

China's trade surplus with the US was US$21.34 billion in April, up from US$17.74 billion in March, according to data from China's customs bureau.

China's large trade surplus with the US has drawn attention from US President Donald Trump. He pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping at a recent meeting in Florida to help reduce the trade gap between the two countries.

While the Trump administration did not label China a currency manipulator in the Treasury Department's most recent report on currency manipulation, it has sought other fronts in which to tackle its large trade deficit with Beijing.

Last month, Mr Trump launched a trade probe against China and other exporters of cheap steel into the US market.

The US Commerce Department said last Tuesday it would open investigations into possible dumping and subsidisation of imports of tool chests and cabinets from China and Vietnam.

As Mr Trump moves to put America's interest first and pull out of multilateral trade agreements, China has positioned itself as a supporter of free trade.

Finance leaders of Japan, China and South Korea last week agreed to resist all forms of protectionism in a trilateral meeting last Friday, taking a stronger stand than G20 major economies against the protectionist policies advocated by Mr Trump.