China trade: rebound continues as imports surge 38.1 per cent in March, exports up 30.6 per cent

Andrew Mullen
·4-min read

China’s imports and exports continued their strong rebound in March, data released on Tuesday showed.

Exports grew by 30.6 per cent last month from a year earlier to US$241.13 billion, down from the 60.6 per cent seen in January and February, and below the median result of a survey of analysts conducted by Bloomberg, which predicted 38.1 per cent growth.

This was still the ninth consecutive period of export growth, although the fact that exports fell by 6.6 per cent in March last year due to the impact of the coronavirus is a factor in the size of the increase this year.

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Imports grew by 38.1 per cent in March from a year earlier to US$227.34 billion, up from the 22.2 per cent growth seen in January and February, and well above the Bloomberg survey, which predicted 24.5 per cent growth.

This was the sixth consecutive period of import growth but, again, the import drop of 1 per cent in March last year means the latest figures started from a low base.

China’s total trade surplus stood at US$13.8 billion in March, compared to US$103.25 billion in January and February.

In March, China’s imports from the United States rose by 75.1 per cent to US$17.29 billion, while exports rose by 53.3 per cent to US$38.66 billion. China’s trade surplus with the US stood at US$21.37 billion last month.

“Export and import growth remained elevated in year-on-year terms last month, even as base effects turned slightly less favourable. In level terms, exports dropped back slightly but imports continued to rise thanks to strengthening domestic demand. We think shipments will remain resilient in the near-term but will soften later this year,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics.

“Taken together, the trade surplus narrowed to US$13.8 billion, its lowest since the pandemic hit last year. But trade surplus remained large after adjusting for seasonality, edging down from US$58 billion to $US49 billion.”

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In the first quarter, China’s exports grew by 49 per cent, while imports grew by 28 per cent. China’s trade surplus stood at US$116.35 in the first quarter.

Imports from the US rose by 69.2 per cent in the first quarter to US$46.545 billion, while China’s exports to the US rose by 74.7 per cent to US$119.183 billion.

Amid their ongoing trade tensions, China’s imports from Australia rose by 20.9 per cent to US$33.73 billion in the first quarter, while exports to Australia rose by 50.5 per cent to US$14.066 billion.

China’s imports from the European Union rose by 33 per cent to US$73.413 billion in the first quarter, while exports rose by 56.7 per cent to US$110.234 billion.

Overall speaking, there are many positive factors but external challenges have not diminished. Foreign trade still has a long way to go to ensure steady growth

Li Kuiwen

For the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), imports rose by 33.2 per cent to US$86.287 billion, while China’s exports rose by 37.1 per cent to US$105.142 billion.

China customs spokesman Li Kuiwen said that rising commodity prices, driven by monetary easing conducted by the US and other major economies, had helped to push up China’s imports in the first quarter.

“Overall speaking, there are many positive factors but external challenges have not diminished. Foreign trade still has a long way to go to ensure steady growth,” he said.

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