China Trade Balance March 2020


China: Coronavirus shock on trade eases in March

April 14, 2020

In March, exports declined 6.6% over the same month in the previous year, following the 17.2% drop in the January-February period. The print, however, was better than the 15.9% drop that market analysts had expected.

Meanwhile, imports declined 0.9% in annual terms in March. The print followed the 4.0% contraction in the January-February period and was above the 10.0% drop that market analysts had projected.

As a result of the sharp drop in exports, the trade surplus fell from USD 31.5 billion in March 2019 to USD 19.9 billion in March 2020 (January-February 2020: USD 7.1 billion deficit). The 12-month moving sum of the trade surplus fell from USD 373 billion in January-February to USD 362 billion in March.

That said, the outlook remains bleak for the external sector in China as the coronavirus pandemic is now hitting some of the country’s main trade partners.

Our panelists forecast that exports will contract 5.1% in 2020 and imports will drop 1.4%, bringing the trade surplus to USD 323 billion. In 2021, FocusEconomics panelists expect exports will expand 4.0%, while imports will rise 6.0%, leaving the trade surplus at USD 295 billion.


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China Trade Balance Chart

China Trade12m March 20 20 0

Note: 12-month sum of trade balance in USD billion and annual variation of the 12-month sum of exports and imports in %.
Source: General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China and FocusEconomics calculations.

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