China's surplus with the US hits new record in November

Darnell Taylor
December 8, 2018

The trade surplus with the United States was nearly US$35.6 billion, driven by a 9.8 per cent rise in exports compared with the same period previous year and a 25 per cent decline in imports.

But Trump again sought to paint the talks in a more positive light, highlighting a report from Bloomberg that "Chinese officials have begun preparing to restart imports of U.S. Soybeans & Liquified Natural Gas" that were put on hold as a result of the president's initial tariffs.

China has indicated that it is confident it can strike a lasting trade deal with the United States.

However, due to the Chinese currency's depreciation against the dollar, in yuan terms exports rose by 10.2 per cent and imports by 7.8 per cent.

The White House on Monday had to correct a statement by economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who incorrectly told reporters in a conference call that the 90-day negotiating period between the US and China would begin on January 1 instead of December 1.

However, the pace of export growth to the USA slowed from 13 per cent in October, which suggested that the impact of front-loading was fading as many American buyers had stockpiled goods well in advance.

That front-loading may still have been happening in November as the U.S. tariff hike threatened for Jan 1, 2019 was still on the table before presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping met during the Group of 20 summit.

"China is full of confidence in reaching an agreement within the next 90 days", the spokesman said.

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China's trade surplus with the U.S. hit a record in November, even as overall export growth slowed amid waning global demand and uncertainty about a constructive resolution to the trade war.

This year, China's overall export growth has been stronger than expected in nearly every month.

Shipments to the whole world in USA dollar terms rose 5.4 per cent in November, the customs administration said Saturday, missing estimates.

Other economic indicators also suggest that China's exports are facing stronger headwinds. November's China numbers might add a sense of urgency.

Another key export barometer is the biannual Canton Fair.

Xu Jianwei, senior China economist from French bank Natixis, said the bigger fall in imports from 21.4 per cent in October pointed to weakness in domestic demand but higher base number from November past year also needed to be taken into account. Imports of iron ore fell for a second time, reflecting waning restocking demand at steel-mills as profit margins narrow.

"Slower exports and property investment will lead to a further slowdown in China's economy", Mr Hu said after the data was released.

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