China's trade surplus with United States hits record high

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Chinese negotiators are said to have pledged to "purchase a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods, and other products and services from the United States", according to a statement of the US Trade Representative.

Customs data showed that Chinese exports rose 11.3 percent in 2018 to $478.4 billion, while imports from the U.S. only rose by 0.7 percent.

Even though export growth was the highest since 2011, last year's overall Chinese trade surplus fell to the lowest level since 2013.

Exports rose 7.1 per cent year on year to 16.42 trillion yuan last year but at the same imports grew 12.9 per cent to 14.09 trillion yuan, resulting in a trade surplus of 2.33 trillion yuan, which narrowed by 18.3 per cent.

Analysts had expected export growth to slow to 3 per cent with imports up 5 per cent.

In 2017, the trade difference between the two world's largest economies was $275.8 billion in China's favor.

President Trump wants Beijing to buy more American goods to narrow the yawning trade gap and allow foreign players better access and protection in the Chinese market.

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"Export growth has slowed down dramatically", noted Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

If the two sides fail to resolve their differences by March 1, the United States has threatened to increase the tariff rate on US$200 billion of Chinese goods. "Trade cooperation with Belt and Road countries has become new driving force of China's foreign trade development", Li said.

The December data overshadowed China's overseas trade registering a historic high of United States dollars 4.5 trillion previous year.

Some companies have shifted production of goods bound for the US from China to avoid USA tariffs.

In December, China's global exports shrank 4.5 percent to $221.2 billion while imports declined 7.2 percent to $164.2 billion.

China's exports unexpectedly fell the most in two years in December and imports also contracted, pointing to further weakness in the world's second-largest economy in 2019 and deteriorating global demand. For all of 2018, soybean, the second largest imports from the USA, fell for the first time since 2011.

China's export growth is expected to have eased for a second straight month in December as global demand weakened, raising pressure on Beijing as it tries to reach a trade deal with Washington.