China's trade surplus with the United States is getting smaller

Thomas Peter – Pool / Getty Images
  • Chinese trade data breezed past expectations in October with imports and exports both growing faster over the year than a month earlier.
  • The strong growth numbers are likely flattered by front-loading of orders ahead of the introduction of tariffs earlier in the year.
  • Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the G20 meeting later this month to discuss the trade dispute. Few hold out any hope that a near-term solution will be found to deescalate trade tensions between the two nations.

Chinese trade data breezed past expectations in October, offering a very different perspective on the global economies to the one that markets have been worrying about for the best part of nine months.

According to China’s General Administration of Customs, the value of exports grew by 15.6% in the year to October in US dollar terms, faster than the 14.5% pace reported in September and expectations for a moderation to 11%.

Import growth was even faster than exports, lifting by 21.4% from 12 months earlier in USD terms, above the 14.3% level of a month earlier and forecasts for an increase of 14%.

The net result was the that the trade surplus swelled to $US34.01 billion, up from $US31.7 billion in September. That was marginally below the $US35 billion expected.

While the strong growth in both exports and imports looks impressive, particularly given recent US dollar strength, the scale of the increase likely reflects the impact of orders being front-loaded ahead of the introduction of tariffs in late September.

Despite continued strength in the global economy, many suspect the impact of tariffs will begin to show up in the months ahead.

In what may ease or provoke trade tensions with the United States, depending on who you ask, China’s trade surplus with the United States stood at $US31.78 billion in October, down from $US34.13 billion a month earlier.

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the G20 meeting later this month to discuss the trade dispute.

While there have been signs of a thawing in trade tensions between the two sides in recent weeks, few hold out any hope that a near-term solution will be found to deescalate trade tensions.

Donald Trump continues to float the idea that he may look to apply tariffs on all Chinese goods entering the United States, more than doubling the $US250 billion worth of imports already attracting tariffs.

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