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Led by apparel, monthly exports to the US from Xinjiang hit their lowest November reading since records began in 2017. Photo: AFP

US-bound exports from China’s Xinjiang drop 64 per cent, monthly trade data shows

  • November exports hit their lowest level since 2017, the earliest available data
  • Declines were led by the apparel sector, a target of recent US trade legislation
China trade
Xinjiang’s monthly exports to the United States saw the biggest year-on-year decline in November after a new law took effect in June that was aimed at banning goods from the far western region of China over allegations of forced labour.

Companies from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region exported US$16.84 million worth of goods to the US in November, a drop of 64 per cent compared with the same month last year, according to Chinese customs data.

The slump, which was led by apparel, once the region’s top export to the US, was the lowest November reading since 2017 – the earliest available data from China’s customs portal.

The apparel sector has been flagged as a category of particular concern for potential forced labour under the Uygur Forced Labour Prevention Act. Beijing denies all accusations of rights abuses in the region.

China cotton production set to grow as Xinjiang offsets drought-hit regions

Xinjiang produces more than 90 per cent of the cotton in China.

Customs data showed Xinjiang sent just US$483,655 worth of apparel and clothing to the US in November, less than 3 per cent of the region’s total shipments to the country.

Instead, Xinjiang’s major shipments to the US last month consisted of machinery and mechanical equipment plus furniture and bedding. Those two groups each account for around one third of the region’s total exports, according to calculations by the Post based on customs figures.

Overall, Xinjiang’s total exports in November jumped by 47 per cent year-on-year to US$3.1 billion, data from Urumqi customs showed, despite stringent coronavirus lockdowns in the region at the time.


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Weakened demand amid recession fears and disrupted supplies caused by Covid-19 lockdowns impacted Chinese shipments to the US, which tumbled by 25.43 per cent to US$40.8 billion in November, compared to the same period last year – the fourth straight month of declines.

Despite the busy US holiday shopping season, all major consumer products from China saw a slump in shipments last month.

November shipments of smartphones, among the most valuable of China’s export products to the US, fell to their lowest level of the year to US$2.31 billion – half the level recorded in October – amid manufacturing disruptions and worker protests over Covid-19 outbreaks and lockdowns at the world’s biggest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, Henan province.

Toy, game and sporting goods exports to the US fell by 37.5 per cent to US$1.95 billion in November, while furniture and bedding dropped by 30.1 per cent to US$2.56 billion, customs data showed.


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As a global trade boom triggered by the pandemic continued to cool down, China’s total exports also declined for the second month in a row in November, falling by 8.7 per cent from a year earlier to US$296 billion.

At last week’s annual central economic work conference, which sets the economic tone for the year ahead, Beijing vowed to continue to “give full play to the role of exports in supporting the economy”, and work harder to attract foreign investment and promote export growth.

China has begun to pivot from its long-standing hardline zero-Covid policy, and is now prioritising its economic recovery, however economists said they expected export growth to continue to slow in line with falling global demand in the months ahead.

‘Global slowdown’ in clothing demand reflected in China’s cotton-yarn imports

“Overall, growth pressures in [developed markets], high inventory, and a downward tech cycle are gradually being reflected in China’s external demand growth,” Wang Tao, head of Asia Economics, and Chief China Economist at UBS Investment Bank Research, said in a report earlier this month.

“We thus expect exports to decline further in the coming months, likely into the first half of 2023. A bottoming tech cycle and a lower base should start to boost year-on-year export growth later in the year,” Wang said.

To boost cross-border trade and stabilise dwindling exports, Beijing has said it would promote the “ orderly reopening” of its land border crossings and ensure “smooth customs clearance” at ports to expedite trade, the General Administration of Customs said on Monday.