This aerial view shows new cars waiting to be exported at a dockyard in Yantai in eastern China's Shandong province on Nov. 2, 2023. China’s exports rose in November, the first increase since April, while imports fell, according to customs data released Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (Chinatopix via AP, File)
HONG KONG (AP) — China’s exports rose in November, the first increase since April, while imports fell, according to customs data released Thursday.
Exports rose 0.5% from a year earlier to $291.9 billion, a sign that demand may be picking up after months of decline. But imports fell 0.6%, to $223.5 billion, after they climbed 3% in October.
China has been grappling with sluggish foreign trade this year amid slack global demand and a stalled recovery, despite the country’s reopening after its strict COVID-19 controls were lifted late last year.
The trade surplus of $68.4 billion was up 21% compared to October’s $56.5 billion.
Some economists said they doubt the rise, fueled mainly by exports of vehicles and ships, will continue for long.
“Looking forward, the resilience of exports is unlikely to last. The recent strength is at least partly fueled by exporters slashing prices to gain market share,” Zichun Huang, a China economist with Capital Economics wrote in a note, describing the reduction of prices as “unsustainable.”
“Without the support of price cuts, exports are unlikely to defy the slowdown in growth among China’s major trading partners, which we expect to continue in the first half of next year,” Huang said.
Trade with Japan, Southeast Asian countries, the European Union and the U.S. has declined this year.
Demand for Chinese exports has been weak since the Federal Reserve and central banks in Europe and Asia began raising interest rates last year to cool inflation that was at multi-decade highs.
China’s property sector remains a drag on the economy, with sales slumping and developers struggling to repay massive amounts of debt.
The central bank has eased borrowing rules and cut mortgage rates for first-time home buyers while providing some tax relief measures for small businesses. Late last month, it announced plans to issue 1 trillion yuan ($330 billion) in bonds for infrastructure projects and disaster prevention, dipping deeper into deficit to try to nudge the economy into higher gear.
Thursday's data was released as President Xi Jinping was meeting with EU leaders. EU leaders were expected to discuss the large regional trade deficit with China and other issues including climate change and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Exports to the EU fell 11% from a year earlier to $38.3 billion in November compared. Imports slid 1% to $23.2 billion.
EU chief Ursula Von der Leyen has said that the EU would tolerate a chronic imbalance in trade with China.
Beijing responded by saying that it doesn't make sense for the EU to curb exports of sensitive technology while trying to increase exports to China. Curbs on exports of sensitive technology are a longstanding point of contention between Beijing and the U.S. and other Western nations.
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