China’s trade surplus soared nearly 50 per cent in 2007 to a record, despite safety worries about Chinese products and a slowdown in export growth late in the year, according to government data released Friday.
The sharp rise could add to pressure on Beijing to act on currency controls and import barriers, possibly giving ammunition to US lawmakers who are calling for trade sanctions.
The country’s annual trade surplus ballooned to $262.2 billion, up 47.7 per cent from 2006, the General Administration of Customs said.
That was below the $300 billion figure forecast by some economists but reflected strong demand for low-cost Chinese exports at a time of concern about the safety of products, ranging from toothpaste and seafood to tires and toys.
China’s politically-sensitive trade surplus with the United States rose 19 per cent to $163.3 billion, according to customs data.
The United States reported a $232.5 billion trade deficit with China in 2006 and last year’s gap is on track to pass that. Data reported by the two governments on their bilateral trade often differ widely.
The 2007 trade gap with the European Union, Beijing’s biggest trading partner, rose much faster, expanding by 46 per cent to $134.3 billion, according to customs data.
The communist government says it is not intentionally pursuing a large trade surplus, and the flood of cash pouring into the economy from export revenues is straining the central bank’s ability to control pressure for prices to rise.
The United States and other trading partners are pressing Beijing to ease controls that they say keep its currency, the yuan, undervalued and give Chinese exporters an unfair price advantage, adding to China’s trade gap.
Beijing has allowed the yuan to rise gradually against the dollar but some American lawmakers are pushing for punitive tariffs on imported Chinese goods unless it takes quicker action.
December’s monthly surplus was $22.7 billion, the customs agency reported on its website. That was up 9.5 per cent from the same month of 2006 but well below October’s record monthly high of $27 billion.
“The country’s soaring trade surplus eased a bit in the fourth quarter last year, with imports catching up and exports slowing down,” said a customs agency statement quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.
In 2007, exports rose 25.7 per cent to $1.2 trillion, while imports rose 20.8 per cent to $955.8 billion US dollars, the agency said. It gave no monthly breakdown. (AP)
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