BEIJING -- China’s imports and exports rose by double digits in July but growth slowed as global efforts to control the coronavirus’ more contagious delta variant weighed on business and consumer spending.
Exports rose 18.9% over a year earlier to $282.7 billion, decelerating from June’s 32.2%, customs data showed Saturday. Imports rose 28.7% to $227.1 billion, easing off the previous month’s 36.7% expansion.
This year’s trade growth has been amplified by comparison with early 2020, when global demand plunged after China and other governments shut factories and shops to fight the pandemic.
Forecasters have warned trade growth would level off as entertainment and other service industries reopened, consumer spending returned to normal and Chinese competitors that were hampered by anti-disease controls returned to global export markets. That has been disrupted as more governments reimpose business closures and other controls to contain the delta variant, extending China's rapid expansion in goods exports.
China’s exports to the United States rose 13.4% over a year ago to $49.6 billion, decelerating from June’s 17.8% growth, despite a lingering tariff war with Washington over Beijing’s technology ambitions. Imports of American goods rose 25.6% to $14.2 billion, down from the previous month’s 37.6% expansion.
President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has yet to say whether he might roll back penalties imposed on Chinese imports by his predecessor, Donald Trump. Envoys from the two sides have talked by video link but have yet to announce a date for negotiations.
China’s global trade surplus narrowed by 8.7% from a year earlier to $56.6 billion. Its surplus with the U.S. expanded by 8.9% to $35.4 billion, or more than double the total of Chinese imports of American goods.
China led the global recovery from the pandemic but domestic consumer spending and other activity is weaker than expected. Exporters face disruptions in the global flow of industrial components including processor chips.
China’s economic growth slowed to 7.9% over a year earlier in the three months ending in June as a rebound leveled off.
Economic growth in the April-June quarter over the previous three months, the way results are reported for other major economies, was 1.3%, reflecting a return to normal for factory activity and consumer spending as government stimulus and easy credit wind down. That was up from the January-March period’s 0.6% expansion over the final three months of 2020 but still among the past decade’s weakest quarters.
Consumer activity has lagged the revival of manufacturing. Retail spending rose 12.1% in June, weakening from the previous month’s 12.4%.
Chinese exports to the 27-nation European Union declined 16.2% over a year ago to $43.3 billion, while imports of European goods sank 15.8% to $25.9 billion. China’s trade surplus with the EU contracted by 17.1% to $17.4 billion.
General Administration of Customs of China (in Chinese): www.customs.gov.cn