China returns to trade surplus as imports fall more than exports
China’s exports fell again last month, but imports declined sharply after rising in February – resulting in a turnaround to a surplus while underlining the continuing uncertainty in the outlook for trade.
Exports from the mainland fell 6.6 per cent in March from a year earlier, though the contraction narrowed from about 18 per cent in February.
Imports slumped 11.3 per cent last month after growing 10.1 per cent in February, according to data issued by the customs bureau on Thursday.
Trade reversed to a surplus of US$7.71 billion last month from a deficit of US$23 billion in February and a US$960 million deficit in March last year.
Wang Jun, a senior researcher at the China Centre For International Economic Exchange, said: “The recovery in external demand wasn’t as strong as imagined. China needs to take more steps to boost trade competitiveness.”
He said he believes the government has more policies in reserve to stabilise growth, after Premier Li Keqiang pledged last month to cut taxes and speed up investment in railways and other infrastructure.
Customs bureau spokesman Zheng Yuesheng said in a statement that China’s foreign trade had faced difficulties but the decline in trade volumes in the first quarter was “temporary” and partly due to a strong comparison base a year earlier.
Year-on-year growth in exports and imports would likely resume from next month, Zheng said.