China's January exports rebound, imports decline

Chinese staffers adjust a U.S. flag before the opening session of trade negotiations between U.S. and Chinese trade representatives at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

BEIJING - China's January exports rebounded from a contraction late last year amid trade tensions with Washington, but imports declined.

Exports rose 9.1 per cent from a year earlier to $217.6 billion, an improvement from December's 3.5 per cent decline, customs data showed Thursday. Imports slipped 1.5 per cent to $178.4 billion.

Chinese exports to the United States have been squeezed by President Donald Trump's tariff hike in a dispute over Beijing's technology ambitions.

U.S. and Chinese negotiators began talks Thursday that Trump says will help decide whether he allows another increase on $200 billion of imports from China to go ahead on March 2.

Weakness in global demand for Chinese goods has increased pressure on the ruling Communist Party to resolve its sprawling dispute with Washington at a time when Beijing is trying to reverse an economic downturn. The government has warned Chinese exporters the global environment is "complicated and severe."

"The downbeat outlook for global growth means that this year is likely to be challenging for Chinese exporters, even if the ongoing U.S.-China trade negotiations culminate in a deal," Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a report.

Chinese trade data early in the year are disrupted by the Lunar New Year holiday, which comes at different times in January or February each year. Factories rush to fill orders and then close for up to two weeks.

Chinese exports to the United States held up through much of 2018 despite Trump's tariff hikes as exporters rushed to fill orders, then fell in December. Forecasters say American orders will slump this year as the full impact of Trump's penalties hits.

Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed on Dec. 1 to postpone additional tariff hikes by 90 days while they negotiated. But penalties of up to 25 per cent already imposed on billions of dollars of each other's goods have raised costs for American and Chinese buyers of soybeans, medical equipment and other goods.

Trump is pressing Beijing to roll back plans for state-led creation of Chinese global competitors in robotics and other tech fields. Washington, Europe and other trading partners complain such policies violate its market-opening obligations.

Chinese leaders are trying to reduce their country's reliance on trade and nurture self-sustaining economic growth based on domestic consumer spending. But their plans call for keeping exports stable to avoid politically dangerous job losses.

Some companies have shifted production of goods bound for the United States out of China to avoid Trump's tariffs. Others are lining up non-Chinese suppliers of industrial components.

___

General Administration of Customs of China (in Chinese): www.customs.gov.cn


Rex Edward Gill was killed in a shooting incident outside the Comfort Inn and Suites in Aberdeen on Jan. 23, 2019.
Why police believe a Kamloops homicide victim may have been a case of mistaken identity
KAMLOOPS — The shooting of a Penticton man outside of a Kamloops hotel last month may have been the case of mistaken identity, police now say. Rex Edward Gill, 41, was one of two men gunned down outside of separate hotels on Jan. 23.

Top News