China’s economic slowdown isn’t just bad for China. It’s bad for everyone who trades with China.
GDP growth has slowed from 10.4% annually in 2011 to 7.4% last year. According to the World Bank, this number should continue to slide, going below 7% by 2017.
Joseph P. Quinlan, a strategist for US Trust, wrote about the importance of Chinese importing.
“Import demand in China has been simply staggering since 2000, with imports rising nearly nine-fold between 2000 and 2014, helping to boost demand and real growth in Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East, among other places,” Quinlan said.
China has been gobbling up commodities in its drive to develop its economy over the past two decades, and it has become the key trade partner for a diverse group of nations.
In Latin America, China has established trade deals that have given it considerable sway in the region.
China’s need for metals such as aluminium and platinum has not only led it to becoming a massive trade partner for Sub-Saharan African countries but also the largest investor in developing the region.
Even Australia has come to depend on China as its largest trade partner.
All in all, 43 countries counted China as their largest export market in 2014, up dramatically from two in 1990. This has made China the largest export partner globally, passing the US in 2013. As of last year, only 31 countries counted the US as their largest export market. These economies have become dependent to some degree on the expansion of the Chinese economy and the insatiable need for raw goods to continue the country’s ascension to economic power.
In the past year, however, the Chinese slowdown has squeezed these markets considerably. Quinlan notes that exports from South Africa declined 32% last year, Brazil’s were down 12% and Australia’s down 11.4%.
This has caused a dramatic shift in the overall balances of these nations. The Australian trade balance went from a net gain of about $US1.5 billion AUD in early 2014 to a record $US3.888 billion AUD deficit in April 2015, its largest ever.
In Brazil, the shrinking Chinese exports coincided with a GDP growth drop-off from 2.5% in 2013 to 0.1% in 2014, according to the World Bank. This slowdown will continue to be a major factor in the next few years.
“As China transitions towards a more consumption- and service-led growth model, these nations will have to reset and redefine their own growth model, a process that will be challenging and fraught with risk,” Quinlan wrote.
The economic slowdown may be bad for China, but it might turn out even worse for its trade partners.