China's Trade Surplus Fell 9.6% Jan-July

Surplus is at $123.7 billion

China's trade surplus to $123.7 billion in the first seven months of 2008 compared with a year ago, according to official figures released August 11. The decline was partly due to policies aimed at shrinking the surplus, but higher imported energy and resource prices had also contributed to the fall, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The surplus for the month of July alone was $25.3 billion, a decline of about $900 million from the same month a year ago, according figures from China's customs agency.

The country's trade data this year has been volatile, partly due to the Olympics and other special events, as well as changes in holidays. But on average export growth had been running at 22%-23%, Goldman Sachs said in a research note, adding it had been "softer than the strength seen last year but not as bad as many had feared."

China's exports have weakened in recent months mainly because of a global economic slowdown and a gradual strengthening of the Chinese currency, the yuan. As a result, Chinese policymakers have quietly adopted measures to help the nation's exporters. Beginning this month, China improved tax incentives for exporters of some textile and apparel products, moving to support companies struggling amid weakening foreign demand.

Observers have also said a recent slowdown in the rate at which the yuan is strengthening against the U.S. dollar may reflect an attempt to keep Chinese export prices competitive.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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