BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s exports in February grew at a record pace from the previous year, when COVID-19 hit the world’s second-largest economy, customs data showed on Sunday, while imports surged. less pronounced.
Exports in dollar terms soared 154.9% in February compared to the previous year, while imports increased 17.3%, the most since October 2018. The data does not include figures for January only.
In the January-February period, exports increased 60.6% compared to the previous year, when the blockades to contain the pandemic paralyzed the country’s economic activity. That beat analysts’ forecast in a Reuters poll of a 38.9% increase.
Strong exports, which benefited from China’s success in largely containing the public health crisis, have helped fuel the country’s recovery from pandemic-induced paralysis.
The increase was driven by a rebound in foreign demand, customs said in a statement on its website, citing improvements in manufacturing industries in the European Union and the United States, and their higher imports of Chinese products thanks to stimulus measures. fiscal.
“In addition, most of the manufacturing employees (in China) chose to stay for the Lunar New Year holidays,” the statement said. “Our survey showed that many companies in export-oriented provinces remained open and orders that are generally only delivered after the New Year has delivered normally.”
Chinese factory activity generally sits idle during the Lunar New Year holidays, which fell in mid-February this year, when workers return to their hometowns. This year, the government called on workers to avoid travel to curb the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
In January-February, imports increased 22.2% from a year earlier, above the expected 15%, in part due to storage of semiconductors and energy products, according to customs.
China posted a trade surplus of $ 103.25 billion during the first two months. Analysts had expected the trade surplus to shrink to $ 60.15 billion from $ 78.17 billion in December.
In yuan terms, exports increased 50.1% in the two months from the previous year, while imports increased 14.5%.
“Due to the impact of the new coronavirus, overall trade (in yuan terms) in January-February last year fell 9.7%, and the low base was one of the reasons for the largest increase this year,” said the customs. “But even compared to normal years, like the comparable periods in 2018 and 2019, the growth in China’s overall trade was around 20%.”
China’s economy expanded 2.3% last year, helped by strong demand for Chinese-made products such as medical equipment and work-from-home equipment, although growth was the weakest in 44 years.
This year, China has set a modest growth target of at least 6%, planning a careful course from a year interrupted by COVID-19 and amid heightened tensions with the United States.
China’s trade surplus with the United States stood at $ 51.26 billion in January-February. Chinese customs did not give a monthly breakdown. The surplus was $ 29.92 billion in December.
Katherine Tai, nominated by President Joe Biden to be the United States Trade Representative, said last week that she would work to fight a number of “unfair” Chinese business and economic practices.
Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Colin Qian; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and William Mallard