China Posts Record Trade Surplus Despite Global Turmoil

Nov. 11, 2008
Demand from Africa, Latin America and Russia is still strong.

China said on Nov. 11 its trade surplus hit a monthly all-time high of $35.2 billion in October, as exports remained strong despite the global economic turmoil. The surplus, up 29.9% from a year ago, reflected demand for China's exports outside the U.S. and Europe, but it was also the result of a marked slowdown in imports.

Experts said China's trade would soon show more clearly the impacts of the global economic woes, with export growth set to slow following reports already of many factories dependent on overseas sales facing deep difficulties. "It is not very likely that such fast growth in the surplus will be sustained," said Qi Jingmei, a researcher with the State Information Centre, a Beijing-based government think tank.

Exports in October rose 19.2% from a year ago to $128.3 billion, compared with 21.5% growth in September, according to the data from the Customs Administration.

Qi highlighted the diverse markets for China's exports as one reason for the continued solid performance despite problems selling to the struggling developed markets. "The demand from Africa, Latin America and Russia is still strong although exports to Europe weakened," Qi said.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency also gave prominence to the diversification cushion, reporting that exports to Latin America grew 52% in the first nine months to $111.5 billion.

A slowdown in import growth, rising 15.6% in October from a year earlier to $93.1 billion, was another important factor.

Since a large portion of China's imports are of input that get assembled and then re-exported, the trend could also signal further declines in exports in the months ahead, according to observers.

The more moderate rise in imports was also seen to reflect sharp declines in the price of oil and other commodities.

In the first 10 months, the trade surplus -- long a source of friction with Europe and the U.S. -- totaled $216 billion, according to the customs authorities' data. This marked a slight increase from $212.4 billion in the same period last year.

The previous monthly record surplus was $29.4 billion in September.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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