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    China’s April exports slump to lowest in two years as virus bites

    BEIJING (AFP) – China’s export growth slumped in April to its lowest level in almost two years, customs data showed yesterday, as a COVID resurgence shuttered factories, sparked transport curbs and caused congestion at key ports.

    The data shows the extent of growing damage to the world’s second largest economy as millions are confined to their homes – particularly in key business hub Shanghai – to stamp out its worst COVID resurgence since the early days of the pandemic.

    Beijing has persisted with a strict zero-COVID policy involving lockdowns and mass testing, but the economic costs are mounting as manufacturing hubs and supply chains atrophy under gruelling restrictions.

    Export growth plunged to 3.9 per cent on-year last month, the Customs Administration said yesterday.

    While this was above analysts’ expectations of 2.7 per cent growth according to a Bloomberg poll, it marked the lowest rate since June 2020.

    Immigration inspection officers check an oil tanker carrying crude oil at Qingdao port in China’s eastern Shandong province. PHOTO: AFP

    Import growth was flat in April, an improvement from a 0.1 per cent contraction in March, as Chinese consumers remain hesitant under a welter of restrictions across the country.

    “Export growth could get worse in the next couple of months due to the pandemic and China’s stringent COVID containment measures, falling external demand, and loss of orders to other regions,” Nomura Chief China Economist Ting Lu told AFP.

    Export growth was among the key economic drivers of the last several quarters but could turn into a “drag” on the economy, he warned

    Last month, China’s trade surplus came in at USD51.1 billion, according to official data.

    In April, China’s biggest city Shanghai was almost entirely sealed off as it became the epicentre of the country’s worst coronavirus surge, with many factories halting production and trucker shortage causing goods to pile up at its port.

    Restrictions also appear to be looming in other cities, including the capital Beijing.

    “Lockdowns in large cities like Shanghai and rising input costs are major reasons” behind the underwhelming trade figures, Analyst Zhaopeng Xing of ANZ Research said.

    While top leaders have offered words of reassurance for tech, infrastructure and jobs, experts warn that Beijing’s unswerving adherence to its zero-COVID strategy will continue to hack into growth. “China faces a dilemma: how to contain Omicron outbreaks without causing too much damage to the economic activities,” said Chief Economist at Pinpoint Asset Management Zhiwei Zhang.

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