BEIJING: China's trade dropped in August as high energy prices, inflation and anti-coronavirus measures weighed on global and Chinese consumer demand, while imports of Russian oil and gas surged.
Exports rose 7 percent over a year ago to $314.9 billion, decelerating from July's 18-percent expansion, data from China's General Administration of Customs showed on Wednesday. Imports contracted by 0.2 percent to $235.5 billion, compared with the seventh month's already weak 2.3-percent growth.
Demand for Chinese exports has softened as Western economies cool, and the Federal Reserve (Fed) and central banks in Europe and Asia raise interest rates to contain surging inflation. At home, repeated closures of Chinese cities to fight virus outbreaks has weighed on consumers' willingness to spend.
"The slowdown in China's export sector is adding to headwinds for the Chinese economy," Rajiv Biswas of S&P Global Market Intelligence said in a report. Lack of import growth highlights "continued weakness of Chinese domestic demand."
Growth in the world's second-largest economy fell to 2.5 percent in the first half of 2022, less than half the ruling Communist Party's 5.5-percent annual target, after Shanghai and other industrial centers were shut down to fight virus outbreaks.Get the latest news
Factories have reopened, but restrictions more recently in areas including the southern business center of Shenzhen weighed on activity. So has a dry summer that left reservoirs in the southwest unable to generate hydropower and disrupted river shipping.
The International Monetary Fund and private sector forecasters have trimmed their already low growth forecasts.
China's global trade surplus widened by 36.1 percent year on year to $79.4 billion.
Exports to the United States sank 3.8 percent to $49.8 billion from the year-earlier figure, while imports of American goods declined 7.3 percent to $13 billion. The politically sensitive trade surplus with the US that helped to spark a tariff war narrowed by 2.4 percent to $36.7 billion.
US President Joe Biden has left in place tariff hikes imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump in a fight over Beijing's technology development tactics. Beijing retaliated by raising its own import duties and told Chinese companies to stop buying American exports.
Envoys from the two sides talk by phone, but are yet to announce a date to resume negotiations.
Imports from Russia, mostly oil and gas, surged 59.3 percent to $11.2 billion as China appeared to take advantage of discounts offered by the Kremlin to attract buyers in the face of Western sanctions over its war on Ukraine.
China's purchases of Russian energy irritate Washington and its allies, but don't violate sanctions on Moscow. Last year, China bought 20 percent of Russian crude exports, according to the International Energy Agency.