Exports and imports decrease in September

  • China’s trade has slumped this year as global demand for Chinese goods has slowed, dampening domestic demand.
  • The world’s second-largest economy is due to release trade data for September on Friday.

Aerial view of a container ship from a dock in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province.

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BEIJING – China reported a smaller-than-expected decline in exports in September from a year earlier, while imports missed the mark, according to customs data released Friday.

In US dollar terms, exports fell 6.2% last month. That was lower than the 7.6% drop analysts had predicted in a Reuters poll.

Imports also fell 6.2% in US dollar terms in September from a year ago – slightly more than the 6% decline expected by a Reuters poll.

China’s exports have fallen on a year-on-year basis every month since May this year. The last positive print for imports on a year-on-year basis was in September last year.

China’s trade has slumped this year as global demand for Chinese goods has slowed, dampening domestic demand.

According to official data from CNBC, Chinese imports from the European Union moderated in September from a year earlier, leading to a decline in trade with major trading partners.

The United States is China’s largest trading partner on a country basis, while the Association of Southeast Asian Nations recently surpassed the European Union as China’s largest trading partner on a regional basis.

In the first three quarters of the year, China’s exports to the US fell 16.4%, while imports fell 6%.

Russia was the only major country or region in the report from China’s customs agency that showed growth in both exports and imports in the first three quarters of the year from a year earlier.

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By product type, China’s global autos exports are growing at the fastest pace, up 64.4% on a unit basis in the first three quarters of 2023. That’s slower than the 69% pace for the year recorded through August.

China’s annual ships and boats exports grew by 16.2% year-on-year in the third quarter on a unit basis from August.

The volume of China’s cosmetics imports fell 14.2% in the first three quarters from a year ago. The volume of crude oil imports rose 14.6% during that period but fell in US dollar terms.

The pace of crude oil imports in September was little changed from August on a year-to-date basis.

China’s recovery from the pandemic has slowed in recent months, dragged down by a massive real estate sector slump.

The International Monetary Fund this week cut its 2023 China growth forecast to 5% from 5.2%, while maintaining its global growth forecast for the year at 3%. The global economy grew by 3.5% last year.

China is due to announce September retail sales on October 18, along with third-quarter gross domestic product figures.

Amid rising tensions with the United States and Europe in the past few years, China has sought to increase its trade with regional partners in Southeast Asia and countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative. The BRI is a China-led push to develop regional infrastructure such as ports and railways.

By the end of September, China said trains were running to 217 cities in 25 European countries.

Cargo carried on those railroads is expected to account for 8% of China-EU trade in 2022, up from 1.5% in 2016, Chinese officials said this week.

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China also said imports and exports with Belt and Road partner countries will reach $19.1 trillion between 2013 and 2022 – an average annual growth of 6.4% in trade.

The third Belt and Road Forum is scheduled to be held in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend.

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