China Trade Balance December 2018


China: Exports contract in December as sanctions bite

January 14, 2019

Exports contracted 4.4% from the same day in the previous year in December, contrasting the 3.9% expansion in November. The print represented the worst performance in two years and was significantly below market expectations of a 3.0% increase. December’s export data signals that the front-loading of shipments that shored up export growth in recent months has finally ended. Therefore, consequences of the U.S. trade tariffs and weaker global growth should now become more visible.

In December, imports fell 7.6% over the same month in 2017, which contrasted November’s 2.9% increase. The reading undershot the 5.0% expansion that market analysts had forecast and was the sharpest contraction in over two years. Weak domestic demand and a sizeable decline in oil prices were behind December’s result.

The trade surplus rose from USD 53.8 billion in December 2017 to USD 57.1 billion in December 2018 (November 2018: USD 41.9 billion). The 12-month moving sum of the trade surplus increased from USD 347 billion in November to USD 352 billion in December.

Our panelists forecast that exports will expand 3.2% in 2019 and imports will rise 5.2%, reducing the trade surplus to USD 311 billion. In 2020, FocusEconomics panelists expect exports will expand 3.8%, while imports will rise 4.4%, bringing the trade surplus down to USD 309 billion.


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China Trade Balance Chart

China Trade12m December 2018 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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