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.


China says it has sold nearly four billion masks abroad

Updated 05 April 2020

China says it has sold nearly four billion masks abroad

  • Beijing has encouraged factories to increase production of medical supplies
  • China has also exported 37.5 million pieces of protective clothing, 16,000 ventilators and 2.84 million COVID-19 testing kits since March 1
BEIJING: China has sold nearly four billion masks to foreign countries since March, officials said Sunday, as they tried to stem widespread fears over the quality of medical exports.
Despite Chinese cases dwindling, Beijing has encouraged factories to increase production of medical supplies as the pandemic kills over 60,000 globally and parts of the world face a protective equipment shortage.
China has exported 3.86 billion masks, 37.5 million pieces of protective clothing, 16,000 ventilators and 2.84 million COVID-19 testing kits since March 1, customs official Jin Hai said, with orders to more than 50 countries.
She added the country’s medical supply exports were valued at $1.4 billion.
However numerous nations — including the Netherlands, the Philippines, Croatia, Turkey and Spain — have complained about substandard or faulty medical products shipped from China.
Last week, the Dutch government recalled 600,000 masks out of a Chinese shipment of 1.3 million that did not meet quality standards.
China said the manufacturer “stated clearly that (the masks) are non-surgical.”
Spain also rejected thousands of rapid test kits sent by an unauthorized Chinese company after it found that they were unreliable last week.
Chinese officials hit back on Sunday at media reports over defective medical supplies, saying that they “did not reflect the full facts.”
“In reality there are various factors, such as China having different standards and different usage habits to other countries. Even improper use can lead to doubts over quality,” said Jiang Fan, an official with the Ministry of Commerce.
The comments echoed remarks from Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who over the past week has repeatedly urged Western media not to “politicize” or “hype up” the issue.
Earlier this week, Beijing tightened regulations for exported coronavirus medical equipment, requiring products to fulfil both domestic licensing standards and that of their destination countries.
China has also increased its production capacity of COVID-19 testing kits to over 4 million a day, said Zhang Qi, an official with the National Medical Products Administration.