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China Trade February 2024

China: Merchandise exports and imports rise in January–February

Merchandise exports rose 7.1% year on year in January–February, more than triple market expectations. A low base of comparison, recovering global electronics demand and stronger trade with emerging markets such as Russia, Latin America, Africa and India all aided exports in the month.

Meanwhile, merchandise imports rose 3.5% in the same period, over double expectations. The data for January and February is reported together to remove distortions relating to the Chinese New Year.

Our panelists do not see such strong export growth being maintained ahead, and expect only a mild expansion over 2024 as a whole. The base of comparison will be higher later this year than in January–February. Moreover, improving trade ties with emerging markets and recovering electronics demand will be partly offset by Western tech restrictions and trade tensions. As such, China’s export growth is seen undershooting that of other East Asian economies such as Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.

United Overseas Bank’s Ho Woei Chen cautioned that the outlook is muted:

“There is some room for China’s exports to rebound this year on the back of the recovery in the global tech cycle while demand may be boosted by a soft landing of the US economy and potentially less restrictive monetary policy globally. Having said that, geopolitical tensions and protectionist measures continue to cloud the trade outlook. China’s monthly performance could also remain choppy with the base effect expected to reverse and weigh on the exports in Mar.”

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