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China’s March exports grow despite virus; imports flat

BEIJING (AP) – China’s exports rose 15.7 per cent over a year ago in March while imports were flat amid disruptions due to coronavirus outbreaks.

Exports rose to USD276.1 billion despite anti-virus controls in Shanghai and other industrial hubs that are causing factories to reduce production, customs data showed yesterday. Imports rose less than one per cent to USD228.7 billion.

Exports to the United States (US) rose 22.4 per cent over a year earlier to USD47.3 billion in March despite lingering tariff hikes in a feud over Beijing’s technology ambitions. Imports of American goods rose 11.5 per cent to USD15.2 billion.

That meant the politically volatile trade surplus with the US widened by half over a year earlier to USD32.1 billion. That imbalance was one of the factors that prompted then-President Donald Trump to hike tariffs on Chinese goods in 2019.

With almost no growth in imports, China’s global trade surplus more than doubled to USD47.4 billion.

Driverless vehicles move shipping containers at a port in Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong Province. PHOTO: AP

Imports from Russia, a major gas supplier, fell 26.4 per cent from a year earlier to USD7.8 billion. Exports to Russia edged down 7.7 per cent to USD3.8 billion.

Trade and manufacturing appear likely to suffer a bigger impact this month due to the shutdown of most businesses in Shanghai and suspension of access to Guangzhou, a manufacturing and trade centre in the south, and to industrial centres of Changchun and Jilin in the northeast.

Managers of the port of Shanghai, the world’s busiest, said its operations are normal. But the European Union (EU) Chamber of Commerce in China said its member companies estimate the volume of cargo handled by the port every day is down 40 per cent.

Exports to the 27-nation EU fell 9.1 per cent from a year ago to USD44.4 billion while imports tumbled 41.6 per cent to USD24.3 billion. China’s surplus with Europe jumped 179.3 per cent to USD20.1 billion.