China’s exports and imports surged in May with its trade surplus with the U.S. rising 14 percent to $31.8 billion and $12.7 billion with European Union (EU).
Customs data released Monday showed China’s exports rose 28 percent from a year earlier and imports soared 51 percent, but growth was leveling off after the country’s stunning recovery from the slump early in 2020.
Three years into a tariff war with Washington, tensions over the trade gap persist even with business recovering from last year’s shocks as vaccinations rates rise.
Last week, President Joe Biden issued an executive order expanding the number of Chinese companies that will be off-limits to U.S. investors in the latest indication he his administration has not softened Washington’s stance on alleged security risks from companies U.S. officials say are linked to the Chinese “military and industrial complex.”
Over the weekend, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said at a virtual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum that a “significant imbalance” remains in trade between the two largest economies that was “damaging in important ways to the American economy.”
Biden has embraced a return to multilateral forums like the APEC and the World Trade Organization, a rules-making body that Washington says requires significant reforms. In the meantime, progress toward resolving the tariffs war that began under his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, has been fitful.
China has led the global recovery from the pandemic, which is still raging in many parts of the globe but receding in places where vaccinations have been widely deployed. Chinese manufacturers have benefited from strong demand for protective gear and other products as other countries battled Covid-19, gaining market share from their competitors.
The customs data released Monday showed exports rose 28 percent from a year earlier and imports soared 51 percent — at the fastest annual pace in over a decade. Total exports climbed 40 percent in the first five months of the year from a year earlier. They were up 29 percent from the same period in 2019.
The base level boost from last year’s slump is fading, however, and the $263.9 billion in Chinese exports in May was about level with the previous month. China’s imports of $218.4 billion in May were 1.2-percent lower than in April.
China’s total trade surplus in May was $45.53 billion, down 26.5 percent from a year earlier.
While the increase in exports was robust in May, it was slower than some economists had forecast. Analysts said one reason might be delays at ports in southern China, the main shipping hub, due to increased precautions to fight an outbreak of coronavirus cases in that part of the country.