As Trump arrives, China reports narrower surplus with US

BEIJING (AP) – China reported that its politically volatile trade surplus with the United States narrowed in October from the previous month as President Donald Trump arrived yesterday on an official visit with commercial issues high on his agenda.

China’s global exports rose 6.9 per cent to $188.9 billion, a decline from September’s 8.1 per cent growth, customs data showed. Imports rose 17.2 per cent to $150.9 billion, down from the previous month’s 18.7 per cent increase.

Exports to the United States rose 11.2 per cent while imports of US goods rose 17.4 per cent, the customs agency reported.

The trade surplus with the United States was $26.6 billion, a decline of $1.5 billion from September but a 12.2 per cent increase compared with a year earlier. The total surplus with the United States for the first nine months of the year was $223 billion.

Export growth was unexpectedly strong in the first half of the year, a positive sign for Chinese leaders who want to avoid job losses in trade-related industries as they try to nurture consumer-led economic growth.

Workers install glass panels near US fast food brand McDonald’s store in Beijing. – AP

The outlook for Chinese exports has been clouded by mounting pressure from Washington to narrow the country’s trade surplus. The Trump administration has boosted duties Chinese goods such as stainless steel and plywood to offset what it says are improper subsidies.

“Export growth eased somewhat in October to a pace that is still solid, indicating that global demand momentum remains resilient,” Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics said in a report. “However, as trade with the US takes the limelight amid US President Trump’s China visit, we estimate that the US’s trade deficit with China will rise to close to $370 billion this year, adding to trade tensions.”

Trump has complained about the size of the US trade gap with China but has yet to say what he might propose in Beijing.

His government also is investigating whether Beijing is violating its free-trade commitments by pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology in return for market access.

Some American companies worry Trump’s focus on trade in goods might mean he pays too little attention to barriers to market access in services such as finance and health care.

China’s trade surplus with the 28-nation European Union, its biggest trading partner, narrowed by 6.6 per cent to $11.3 billion.