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Dismal year for Chinese exports as Beijing faces Trump trade threats

Chinese exports fell last year with global demand for its goods weakening, amid fears of a trade war with the US under the Trump administration.

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Dismal year for Chinese exports as Beijing faces Trump trade threats

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There was gloomy data from the world’s largest trading nation as Chinese exports fell last year with international demand for its goods weakening.

That news comes amid fears of a trade war with the United States under the Trump administration.

For all of 2016, exports were down 7.7 percent. It is the second annual decline in a row, in 2015 they fell 2.8 percent. And it was the worst since the 16 percent fall in 2009 during the depths of the global economic crisis. Last year imports were down 5.5 percent.

China’s December exports fell by a more-than-expected 6.1 percent on-year, while imports beat forecasts slightly, growing 3.1 percent on its strong demand for commodities.

Prolonged weakness in exports has forced China’s government to rely on higher spending and massive bank lending to boost the economy, at the risk of adding to a huge pile of debt which some analysts warn is nearing danger levels.

Tough trade year ahead

China’s customs agency said it will be difficult for foreign trade to grow this year especially if the country’s exports are limited due to protectionist moves by the US.

Customs spokesman Huang Songping said: “We reckon that the economies of China and the US are complementary to each other, the trade is mutually beneficial. In 2016, the US was the second biggest trade partner for us and the biggest export market. We hope China and the US, as the two largest economies, can have promising further developments in economic and trade cooperation. We will pay close attention to foreign trade policy after Trump is inaugurated president.”

He also called China “the biggest victim” of an increasingly evident anti-globalisation trend.

While campaigning for the presidency, Trump pledged to brand Beijing a currency manipulator on his first day in office and threatened to slap high tariffs on Chinese goods.

Even if there is no immediate concrete action from Washington, analysts have said worries about deteriorating US-China trade ties as well as political friction will likely reduce the confidence of exporters and investors worldwide.