China’s trade accelerates in August despite coronavirus

BEIJING — China’s import and export growth accelerated in August despite disruptions due to the spread of the coronavirus’s delta variant.

Exports rose 25.6% over a year earlier to $294.3 billion, up from July’s 18.9% growth, customs data showed Tuesday. Imports rose 33.1% to $236 billion, up from the previous month’s 28.7%.

That came despite lingering disruptions in industrial production chains due to last year’s global economic shutdown and a renewed rise in infections in the United States and some other markets that has dampened consumer sentiment.

China has so far defied forecasts that export demand would level off as anti-disease controls eased, entertainment and other service industries reopened and foreign rivals returned to global markets.

“Exports and imports were much stronger than anticipated last month thanks to buoyant demand, even as the data point to some lingering supply shortages,” Sheana Yue of Capital Economics said in a report.

This year’s trade figures are distorted by comparison with 2020. Global demand plunged in the first half after governments shut factories and shops to fight the pandemic. Chinese exporters reopened after the ruling Communist Party declared the virus under control in March 2020, while its foreign competitors were hampered by anti-virus curbs.

China’s exports to the United States rose 15.5% in August over a year earlier to $51.7 billion, accelerating from July’s 13.4% growth despite U.S. tariff hikes imposed in an enduring battle over Beijing’s technology ambitions. Imports of American goods increased 33.3% to $14 billion, up from the previous month’s 25.5% gain.

President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has yet to say whether he might roll back penalties imposed on Chinese imports by his predecessor, Donald Trump. Envoys from the two sides have talked by video link but have yet to announce a date for negotiations.

China’s global trade surplus narrowed by 1% in August over a year earlier to $58.3 billion.

The politically volatile surplus with the United States widened by 10% to $37.7 billion.

Chinese exports to the 27-nation European Union declined 9.9% from a year ago to $46.2 billion while imports of European goods fell 22% to $25.3 billion. The trade surplus with Europe widened by 10.9% to $20.9 billion.

China’s economic growth slowed to a robust 7.9% over a year earlier in the latest quarter as a rebound from the pandemic leveled off.

Economic growth in the April-June period compared with the previous quarter, the way other major economies report results, was 1.3% as factory and consumer activity returned to normal. That was up from the January-March period’s 0.6% expansion over the final three months of 2020 but among the past decade’s weakest quarters.