Exports and imports decline in September

  • Chinese trade has declined this year amid weak global demand for Chinese goods and weak domestic demand.
  • The world’s second-largest economy is scheduled to release trade data for September on Friday.

An aerial view of a container ship leaving a shipyard in Qingdao, east China’s Shandong Province.

Future Publishing | Future Publishing | Getty Images

BEIJING – China recorded a smaller-than-expected decline in exports in September from a year ago, while imports fell, according to customs data released Friday.

In US dollar terms, exports fell by 6.2% last month compared to a year ago. This is less than analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll of a decline of 7.6%.

Imports also fell by 6.2% in US dollars in September compared to a year ago – slightly more than the 6% decline expected by a Reuters poll.

China’s exports fell on an annual basis every month this year starting in May. The last positive reading for imports on an annual basis was in September of last year.

Chinese trade has declined this year amid weak global demand for Chinese goods and weak domestic demand.

Chinese imports from the European Union outweighed the decline in trade with major trading partners, rising modestly in September from a year ago, according to CNBC calculations of official data.

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

In the first three quarters of the year, China’s exports to the United States fell by 16.4%, while imports fell by 6% during that period.

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Russia was the only major country or region in the Chinese Customs Agency report that showed growth in both exports and imports during the first three quarters of the year compared to last year.

By product category, China’s global auto exports remained the fastest growing, rising on a unit basis 64.4% from a year ago through the first three quarters of 2023. This is slower than the 69% pace recorded for the year through August.

China’s ship and boat exports for the year rose from August on a unit basis to a 16.2% year-on-year increase in the third quarter.

The volume of China’s imports of cosmetics decreased by 14.2% in the first three quarters compared to last year. The volume of crude oil imports increased by 14.6% during that period, but decreased on a US dollar basis.

The pace of crude oil imports on an annual basis in September changed little from August.

China’s recovery from the epidemic has slowed in the past few months, affected by a significant decline in the real estate sector.

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

China is scheduled to announce September retail sales on October 18, along with third-quarter GDP numbers.

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

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As of the end of September, China said it had trains running to 217 cities in 25 European countries.

Chinese officials said this week that goods transported along these railway lines accounted for 8% of trade between China and the European Union in 2022, up from 1.5% in 2016.

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

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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