China exports rebound in April but more weakness ahead

BEIJING (AP) — China’s exports rebounded in April to rise 3.5 per cent over a year earlier, but forecasters warned that strength is unlikely to last as the coronavirus pandemic depresses global consumer demand.

Exports to the United States (US) rose 2.2 per cent, while imports of American goods fell 11 per cent in a sign of weak Chinese industrial and consumer demand despite the lifting of most anti-virus controls, government data showed yesterday.

Total exports rose to USD200.3 billion, a turnaround from the 13.3 per cent contraction in the three months ending in March. Imports fell 13.7 per cent from a year earlier to USD179.6 billion, worse than the first quarter’s 2.9 per cent decline.

“Exports were much stronger than anticipated in April but are likely to drop back sharply this month,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report. “Worse is still to come for Chinese trade.”

The ruling Communist Party has allowed factories and some other businesses to reopen since declaring victory over the virus in March. But many are struggling to get back on their feet and key export markets in the US and Europe have closed stores and told consumers to stay home.

Trade was poised for a boost after Beijing and Washington removed some punitive tariffs imposed on each other’s goods in a fight over China’s trade surplus and technology ambitions. That was set back when China shut down much of the world’s second-largest economy to fight the virus outbreak.

Policeman wearing a face mask inspects a cargo train at a land cargo port on the border between China and Kazakhstan in Horgos. PHOTO: AP