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China's trade with US shrinks in October despite optimism

Posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2019 By Joe Mcdonald, AP Business Writer

Gao Feng
In this March 29, 2018, file photo, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng listens to a reporter's question during a press conference at the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing. On Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, China's Commerce Ministry says Washington and Beijing have agreed to cancel tariff hikes as their trade negotiations progress. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

BEIJING (AP) — U.S.-Chinese trade contracted again in October, despite optimism about possible progress in talks aimed at ending a tariff war that threatens global economic growth.

Chinese imports of U.S. goods fell 14.3% from a year earlier to $9.4 billion, customs data showed Friday. Exports to the United States sank 16.2% to $35.8 billion.

President Donald Trump announced a tentative deal Oct. 12 and suspended a planned tariff hike on Chinese imports. But details have yet to be agreed on and earlier penalties stayed in place. That is depressing trade in goods from soybeans to medical equipment.

Beijing announced Thursday the two sides agreed to a gradual reduction in punitive tariffs if talks on the "Phase 1" deal make progress. However, there has been no sign of progress on major disputes about China's trade surplus and technology ambitions.

Optimism about the talks "could improve the climate for exports in the coming months by improving global sentiment and trade. But we remain cautious," said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics in a report.

"It is unlikely that the bulk of existing tariffs will be removed soon," Kuijs said. He said a "substantial gap" in perceptions about what each side is gaining means "there is a substantial risk of re-escalation of tensions in 2020."

China's global exports declined 0.9% to $212.9 billion, a slight improvement over September's 3% contraction. Imports tumbled 6.4% to $170.1 billion, adding to signs Chinese demand also is cooling.

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