China imports from US tumble by almost one fifth

A container ship at a port in Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong province. Chinese imports of American goods plunged in July as a tariff war with Washington intensified. (AP)
Updated 08 August 2019

China imports from US tumble by almost one fifth

  • Beijing has retaliated for US tariff hikes in a dispute over trade

BEIJING: Chinese imports of American goods plunged in July as a tariff war with Washington intensified. Imports of US goods fell 19 percent from a year earlier to $10.9 billion, customs data showed Thursday, though that was an improvement over June’s 31.4 percent fall. Exports to the US declined 6.5 percent to $38.8 billion.

Beijing has retaliated for US tariff hikes in a dispute over trade and technology by imposing its own punitive duties and suspending purchases of American soybeans and other goods.

The latest data follow President Donald Trump’s threat last week to extend punitive duties to an additional $300 billion of Chinese imports. China’s total exports rose 3.3 percent over a year earlier to $221.5 billion, rebounding from June’s 1.3 percent contraction amid weakening global consumer demand. Imports shrank 5.6 percent to $176.4 billion, an improvement over the previous month’s 7.3 percent decline.

“Shipments in and out of China held up better than expected last month, but a sustained turnaround still looks unlikely in the near-term,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report.

China’s central bank rattled global financial markets this week by allowing its yuan to weaken to an 11-year low against the US dollar. That would make Chinese goods less expensive abroad but the currency’s 5 percent decline this year against the dollar is too small to completely offset US tariffs of 25 percent.

China’s global trade surplus widened by 60 percent over a year ago to $45.1 billion.

The surplus with the US was little changed but stood at $28 billion, a level that might fuel American pressure for Chinese concessions in trade talks.

Washington and Beijing are locked in an increasingly costly tariff war over US complaints China steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. The US and other Chinese trading partners complain Beijing’s plans for government-led development of global competitors in robotics and other fields violates its market-opening commitments.

Trade has weakened since Trump started hiking tariffs on Chinese goods last June. Beijing retaliated with its own penalties and ordered importers to find non-US suppliers.

Trump and President Xi Jinping agreed in June to resume negotiations but talks last week in Shanghai ended with no sign of agreement. Envoys are due to meet again next month.

Economists warn the truce is fragile because the two sides still are separated by the disagreements that caused talks to break down in May.

Trade weakness has added to pressure on Xi’s government to shore up economic growth and avoid politically dangerous job losses.

Beijing agreed last year to narrow its trade surplus with the US by buying more American natural gas and other exports but scrapped that plan after one of Trump’s tariff hikes. The Chinese government said in June that any purchases must be at a reasonable level, suggested Beijing was becoming more cautious about making big commitments before it sees what Washington offers in exchange.


Saudi Arabia raises more than SR15bn in bond sale

Updated 28 March 2020

Saudi Arabia raises more than SR15bn in bond sale

  • Gulf oil exporters are increasingly turning to debt sales to help fund spending in a low oil price environment

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has sold more than SR15 billion in Islamic bonds, as the Kingdom seeks to develop its local debt market.

The Kingdom’s Finance Ministry said on Friday that it had closed the book to investors on its March 2020 riyal-denominated sukuk program.

The total amount raised by the sukuk sale was SR15.568 billion, divided into three tranches that mature in five, 10 and 30 years.

Gulf oil exporters are increasingly turning to debt sales to help fund spending in a low oil price environment while at the same time developing their own capital markets as part of ongoing diversification reforms.

“The closure of the issuance of government bonds exceeding 15 billion riyals shows many positive elements,” said Abdullah Ahmad Al-Maghlouth, a member of the Saudi Economic Society. 

“Such as confirming the robustness of the Kingdom’s credit rating and the strength of the Saudi economy; that the Kingdom’s debt-to-GDP ratio is still far lower than many other G20 countries; the Finance Ministry’s ability to deal with the requirements of asset and liability management; as well as the Kingdom’s strong foreign-exchange reserves in dollars, among others.”

The Kingdom’s strong credit rating means it can borrow more cheaply than many other Mideast economies despite a weaker oil price.

Economic analyst Fahd Al-Thunayan said: “The Ministry of Finance, represented by the National Debt Management Center, continued its efforts in developing local debt markets and providing the required balance in financing public-budget expenditures, through the optimal mixture of the use of reserves and borrowing within the upper limits, like a percentage of the GDP, where the local issuances reached 65 percent of the total debt in the year 2019.”