Source: Global Times Published: 2019-12-8
China's trade with the US plunged 11.1 percent to 3.4 trillion yuan ($483 billion) in the first 11 months of the year as the long-running bilateral trade war continued to batter both sides, according to customs data released on Sunday. The 11-month decline widened from a 10.6 percent contraction in the first 10 months.
However, China managed to make up for its worsening trade with the US by beefing up trade with other markets, and it achieved what experts described as generally positive trade volume this year.
From January to November, China's exports to the US slid 8.4 percent to 2.64 trillion yuan, while imports from the US fell 19.5 percent to 763 billion yuan. China's trade surplus with the US narrowed 3 percent on a yearly basis to 1.88 trillion yuan.
"The accelerating decline of China's export to the US in recent months was due to the gradually emerging impact of the intensifying trade war in September," He Weiwen, a former senior Chinese trade official, an executive council member of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies and a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, said on Sunday.
The Trump administration started collecting a 15 percent tariff on about $125 billion of targeted goods from China on September 1. The US planned to add an additional tariff of 15 percent on part of some $300 billion worth of Chinese imports that is scheduled to take effect from December 15.
In recent months, China-US trade relations have been imperiled by the ongoing US-initiated trade war. The two countries have not ceased efforts to reach a trade agreement but there are worries that the two largest economies in the world might walk away from the negotiating table.
He estimated that bilateral trade will contract at least 10 percent for the entire year of 2019. "Of course we should actively push the China-US trade negotiations and strive for the phase one agreement as soon as possible. However, we do not need to fear new difficulties, as the general stable (trade) situation has not changed, " He told the Global Times.
"In general, China's trade successfully withstood the negative pressure from the trade war in 2019," said Li Wei, senior research fellow of the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China, on Sunday.
In the first 11 months of 2019, China's total trade increased 2.4 percent year-on-year to 28.5 trillion yuan. Exports were up 4.5 percent while imports were flat with the previous year, customs data showed.
"It's not easy for China to achieve 2.4 percent trade growth at a time when international trade is slowing significantly," said Li. "China's overall trade status is within my expectations and largely positive."
One positive adjustment, according to Li, is that China has already acted to diversify its import channels under pressure from the trade war.
According to the customs data, China's trade with economies along the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative increased 9.9 percent to 8.35 trillion yuan in the first 11 months of this year. Trade with the EU increased 9.5 percent during the period.
"China has been a little too reliant upon the US market in the past, which led to trade security problems. Now, because of the trade war, China has been forced to speed up diversifying its trade partners. In this sense, the trade war is not all bad," Li told the Global Times.
Trade prospects are promising between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a vibrant economic region that is geographically close to China, said Li.
China's trade with the bloc jumped 12.7 percent year-on-year in the first 11 months to 3.98 trillion yuan, customs data showed.
He Weiwen is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.