China's exports fell to a whopping $221.25 billion in December registering the biggest plunge in two years amid the ongoing trade war with the US, highlighting the continued slowdown of the world's second largest economy. Both exports and imports fared worse than expected in December, according to the figures released Monday by the General Administration of Customs (GAC). The figures suggest the negative impact of the trade war may be greater than Chinese authorities previously estimated, and point to the need for a more rapid and larger economic stimulus to stabilise growth, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said in its report.
Total exports fell to a $221.25 billion in December, down 1.4 per cent from November, and 4.4 per cent from the same month in 2017. The figures indicate a further weakening in the strength of the world's second biggest economy which sent Asian stock markets lower on Monday.
The fall of exports in December which is the biggest since December 2016, when China grew at its slowest pace since 1990 was the first indication that the trade war with US is biting Beijing.
Officials of China and US held three day talks last week to clinch a deal by March 1, the end of deadline set by US President Donald Trump, who is demanding that China should come up with credible initiatives to reduce the $375 billion trade deficit in 2017.
Last year again China's trade surplus with the US rose to $323.32 billion in comparison with about $275.81 billion in 2017, according to the GAC figures.
China's exports to the US rose 11.3 per cent last year, while American exports to China increased by about 0.7 per cent. The December data overshadowed China's overseas trade registering a historic high of $4.5 trillion last year. In Chinese currency terms the value of the trade was 2.7 trillion yuan higher than that of 2017, the GAC said.
"China effectively tackled changes of the external environment last year, and the foreign trade maintained stable and positive growth, reaching a historic high in import and export volume," GAC spokesman Li Kuiwen told media on Monday while releasing the data.
Exports rose 7.1 per cent year on year to 16.42 trillion yuan last year but at the same imports grew 12.9 per cent to 14.09 trillion yuan, resulting in a trade surplus of 2.33 trillion yuan, which narrowed by 18.3 per cent.
Exports and imports of products under the general trade category surged 12.5 per cent year on year to 17.64 trillion yuan, accounting for 57.8 per cent of the total foreign trade, 1.4 percentage points higher than 2017.
China's trade with the European Union, the US and the ASEAN countries increased 7.9 per cent, 5.7 per cent and 11.2 per cent, respectively, with their combined trade volume accounting for 41.2 per cent of China's total foreign trade.
Trade with countries along the Belt and Road registered faster-than-average growth, with the trade volume standing at 8.37 trillion yuan, up 13.3 per cent year on year, GAC said.
"Trade cooperation with Belt and Road countries has become new driving force of China's foreign trade development," Mr Li said.
Private enterprises played a bigger role, accounting for 39.7 per cent of the total foreign trade, up 1.1 percentage points compared with 2017. "Private enterprises contributed more than half to China's foreign trade growth in 2018, a bright spot of China's foreign trade development," he said.