China March exports unexpectedly fall but Q1 trade surplus with USA soars


Unlike previous year, when US President Donald Trump sounded protectionist warnings that were largely dismissed as bluster, Chau and other factory bosses across China say the risks from this trade spat are now far more tangible.

China routinely runs multibillion-dollar monthly surpluses with Europe and the USA, which helps to offset deficits with Japan, South Korea and developing countries that supply industrial components and raw materials.

The list announced Friday was linked to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, but companies already were looking ahead to a battle over complaints Beijing steals or forces companies to hand over technology.

"He's going to open it up, take down a lot of the trade barriers - maybe all of them - but take down a lot of trade barriers".

But on Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared to reverse course.

Just Thursday, Trump ordered his top aides to look at reentering the 11-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which he withdrew right after taking office, generating a wave of optimism.

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"We have repeatedly told the USA side that steel and aluminum imports from its ally Japan will not adversely affect America's national security, and that Japan should be excluded", said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

China's reliance on exports as an economic driver has declined over the past decade, with total exports as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product dropping to 18 per cent in 2017 from 35 per cent in 2006, according to research by Credit Suisse.

In a move to further force China to lower the billions of goods trade surplus running with the US, Trump unveiled tariff representing about US$50 billion of technology, transport and medical products early this month, drawing an immediate threat of retaliatory action from Beijing. They won't be happy but we have no other choice.

And still to come are tightened restrictions on Chinese investment in sensitive US sectors, due in about a month from the US Treasury Department.

"In recent years, Chinese economic growth held steady at a medium-high rate to become an indispensable engine and anchor for the world economic recovery and sustainable development", the NBS said in a statement.

"Maybe customers will buy from South America, and then South America sells to the USA", said Yvonne Yuan, a sales manager for Shenzhen Tianya Lighting, a manufacturer of LED bulbs.

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Beijing announced its own list of tariffs on USD50 billion worth of United States imports and promised to fight "unilateral U.S. protectionism at any cost".

"We will make great progress together!"

While Beijing has only grown more powerful in recent years, due to record economic growth and military modernization, the Taiwanese population has grown less and less interested in reunification with the mainland.

"Nonetheless, it's going to be worse before it gets better", Manning cautioned.

"Until the Trump administration articulates those concerns and how China can address them, it's going to be very, very hard for China to make those changes", said Parker.

"The madman theory works sometimes, especially when it's not a theory".

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"We don't strive for a favourable balance of trade (for China), the current state of trade affairs are shaped by the market", he told a briefing in Beijing.