BEIJING: China’S foreign trade fared better than expected in December with exports back in growth and the decline in imports slowing, according to General Administration of Customs data yesterday.
For last year as a whole, however, trade contracted, missing the annual target for the fourth consecutive year as exports and imports fell against a backdrop of sluggish global demand and cheaper commodity prices.
Last month, exports grew 2.3 percent from a year earlier to 1.43 trillion yuan (US$217 billion), reversing November’s 3.7 percent drop. Imports, meanwhile, fell 4 percent to 1.05 trillion yuan, compared to November’s 5.6 percent loss. As a result, December’s trade surplus was 382.1 billion yuan, up from November’s 343.1 billion yuan.
“China’s exports surprised on the upside,” said Liu Ligang, chief economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group. “As exports rebounded strongly, the trade surplus widened more than expected.”
The December data took China’s trade value in 2015 to 24.59 trillion yuan, down 7 percent year on year, far behind the government target of a 6 percent increase with exports edging down 1.8 percent to 14.14 trillion yuan and imports slumping 13.2 percent to 10.45 trillion yuan.
Customs spokesman Huang Songping said China’s trade performance remained hard-earned despite the contraction.
“We can see active changes against the difficulties, including better trade structure and more diversified trade destinations,” he said.
The European Union remained China’s largest trading partner in 2015 with a trade value of 3.51 trillion yuan. It was followed by the United States and the ASEAN countries, which shipped goods worth 3.47 trillion yuan and 2.93 trillion yuan respectively.
Meanwhile, foreign trade involving China’s private firms in the year edged down 0.2 percent to 9.1 trillion yuan, better than the average and accounting for 37 percent of the total. Private exporters reported a 3.1 percent increase in business.
Exports of electrical machinery grew 1.2 percent last year to 8.15 trillion yuan, or 57.7 percent of total exports. Traditional and labor-intensive exports such as toys, textile, clothes, shoes and furniture saw a cut of 1.7 percent to 2.93 trillion yuan, or 20.7 percent of the total.
Last year’s trade surplus surged 56.7 percent on an annual basis to 3.69 trillion yuan, with the growth faster than the pace of 45.9 percent in 2014.