Chinese exports surge, gap with US widens as tensions persist
BANGKOK (AP) – China’s exports and imports increased in May and its politically sensitive surplus with the United States grew as the pandemic faded in important markets in the West.
Customs data released on Monday showed that China’s exports rose 28% from the previous year and imports soared 51%, but growth was leveling off after the country’s dramatic recovery from the China crisis. early 2020.
Three years after the start of a tariff war with Washington, tensions over the trade gap persist even as companies recover from last year’s shocks as vaccination rates rise.
The trade surplus with the United States increased 14% to $ 31.8 billion, while China’s trade surplus with the European Union was $ 12.7 billion.
Last week, President Joe Biden issued an executive order increasing the number of Chinese companies that will be banned from US investors. Chinese “military and industrial complex”.
Over the weekend, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told a virtual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum that a “significant imbalance” persisted in trade between the two largest economies, which “seriously damaged the American economy”.
Biden has embraced a return to multilateral forums like APEC and the World Trade Organization, a regulatory body that Washington says requires significant reform. Meanwhile, progress towards resolving the tariff war that began under his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, has been unstable.
China has led the global recovery from the pandemic, which still rages in many parts of the world but is receding in places where vaccinations have been widely rolled out. Chinese manufacturers have benefited from strong demand for protective equipment and other products as other countries battled COVID-19, gaining market share over their competitors.
Customs data released on Monday showed exports increased 28% from the previous year and imports soared 51% – the fastest annual rate in more than a decade. Total exports increased by 40% in the first five months of the year compared to the previous year. They increased by 29% compared to the same period in 2019.
The baseline increase from last year’s crisis is fading, however, and China’s $ 263.9 billion in exports in May were about the same level as the month before. Chinese imports of $ 218.4 billion in May were 1.2% lower than in April.
China’s total trade surplus in May was $ 45.53 billion, down 26.5 percent from the previous year.
Although the increase in exports was robust in May, it was slower than some economists had expected. Analysts said one of the reasons could be delays at ports in southern China, the main shipping hub, due to increased precautions to tackle an outbreak of coronavirus cases in that part of the country. .
Semiconductor shortages that plague many industries have also affected exports of electronics. Demand for products that increased while people stayed at home due to the pandemic, such as toys and furniture, is also weakening, Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a comment.
“Growth in overall trade remained strong last month. But trade volumes have fallen in terms of levels and, although supply constraints are in part to blame, there are signs that demand could also reach a level. peak, ”he said.
A key driver of the rapid increase in imports over the past month has been rising prices for oil and other commodities needed to power the country’s industries. But it also reflects a higher demand for the inputs needed to make as much of what China exports.
This helps neighboring countries in Asia which supply many such products, such as electronic components. Imports from the Association of 10 Southeast Asian Nations climbed nearly 54% from the previous year to $ 33.1 billion. Exports to the region, where many countries are grappling with their worst coronavirus outbreaks so far, increased 40% to $ 39.2 billion.
Associated Press researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed.