Nine-month figure has already broken record set for last year China's trade surplus slipped to US$15.3 billion last month, down from the monthly record of US$18.8 billion in August, the mainland's customs authority said. But the trade surplus in the first nine months of the year totalled US$109.85 billion, breaking the annual record of US$101.9 billion set for all of last year. Despite the drop from August, statistics released yesterday by the General Administration of Customs showed that last month's surplus was the mainland's second-largest ever and more than double last year's September figure of US$7.57 billion, underscoring severe trade imbalances between China and its main trading partners, the United States in particular. China's exports rose 30.6 per cent year on year to a record US$91.6 billion last month after jumping 32.8 per cent in August, while imports increased 22 per cent after gaining 24.6 per cent in August, the customs administration said on its website. Hong Liang, chief China economist with Goldman Sachs, said: 'Persistently large trade surpluses keep the currency under the spotlight, which we think remains significantly undervalued despite a slightly faster rate of appreciation in recent weeks. 'We believe external imbalances remain as a fundamental issue in the economy which needs to be addressed by allowing the currency to appreciate at a faster pace in future.' Beijing has allowed the yuan to rise just 2.5 per cent since it appreciated by 2.1 per cent against the US dollar in July last year. The mainland's ballooning trade surplus has also led to a rapid increase in the country's foreign reserves - which are expected to break the US$1 trillion mark this month - further increasing pressure for a revaluation of the yuan. On Wednesday, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top think-tank, predicted China's trade surplus would hit a new high of US$158 billion this year before dropping to US$123 billion next year. Figures released by the US Commerce Department yesterday showed a record level of Chinese imports in August and the biggest ever monthly bilateral trade deficit, Reuters reported. US imports of Chinese products hit US$26.7 billion and the monthly shortfall on trade with China was US$22 billion, up from $19.6 billion in July. Meanwhile, Beijing has set a foreign trade growth target of 10 per cent a year until 2010, 14 percentage points lower than the annual average over the past five years. The Ministry of Commerce said yesterday the downward projection reflected the 'substantial change' in China's foreign trade strategy, which now prefers healthy and more profitable expansion to the enlargement of foreign currency reserves. Under the plan, China's foreign trade volume will hit US$2.3 trillion by 2010, with its huge trade surplus largely offset by imports.