China’s imports of US goods rose 10.6 per cent in June over a year ago and its global trade also increased in a fresh sign the world’s second-largest economy is gradually recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. China’s global imports rose 3 per cent to USD 167.2 billion, rebounding from May’s 3.3 per cent decline, customs data showed Tuesday. Exports edged up 0.4 per cent to USD 213.6 billion, an improvement over the previous month’s 16.7 per cent contraction.
The country’s global trade surplus was USD 46.4 billion. Imports of American goods increased to USD 10.4 billion despite higher tariffs that were imposed in a fight with Washington over trade and technology. Exports to the United States gained 1 per cent to USD 39.8 billion.
China, where the pandemic began in December, was the first major economy to shut down to fight the virus and the first to begin the struggle to restore normal business activity after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the outbreak in March.
Chinese factory activity is recovering but consumers, uneasy over possible job losses, are reluctant to commit to big purchases. Forecasters warn exports are likely to weaken as global demand for surgical masks and other medical supplies declines and U.S. and European retailers cancel orders.
Leading indicators suggest that exports will start to contract again before long, Martin Rasmussen of Capital Economics said in a report. Imports should continue to ramp-up, he said, as the government spends more to support economic recovery and consumer demand.
The Chinese economy shrank by 6.8 per cent in the first quarter, its worst performance since at least the mid-1960s. The ruling party skipped announcing an economic growth target for this year but private sector forecasts range from low single digits to a small contraction.
Some forecasters raised their outlook slightly after factory activity in May improved more than expected. Exporters also face hurdles due to U.S. tariff hikes on Chinese goods in the fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions and trade surplus. The two sides signed an agreement in January to postpone further penalties but increases imposed earlier stayed in place.