China exports rise in March, rebounding from slump

In this April 1, 2019, photo, tugboats move a container ship at a port in Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong Province. Data released Friday, April 12, 2019, shows that China's exports rebounded from a contraction in March and sales to the United States grew strongly despite President Donald Trump's tariff hikes.(Chinatopix via AP)
In this March 8, 2019, photo, trucks move at a container port in Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong Province. Data released Friday, April 12, 2019, shows that China's exports rebounded from a contraction in March and sales to the United States grew strongly despite President Donald Trump's tariff hikes.(Chinatopix via AP)

BEIJING — China's exports rebounded from a slump in March and sales to the United States rose despite President Donald Trump's tariff hikes.

Exports rose 14.2% over a year ago to $198.7 billion, recovering from February's 20.8% contraction, customs data showed Friday. Imports fell 7.6% to $166 billion, worsening the previous month's 5.2% decline.

Exports to the United States rose 3.7% to $31.8 billion, recovering from February's 28.6% decline despite Trump's tariffs of up to 25% on $250 billion of Chines goods.

Imports of American goods plunged 25.8% to $11.3 billion, hit by Chinese retaliatory duties and orders to buyers to find other suppliers.

The slump has added to pressure on Chinese leaders to make peace in a tariff war with Washington over Beijing's technology ambitions.

"Exports have yet to fully recover from a sharp slowdown late last year," said Julians Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report.

Chinese government spokespeople said Thursday talks with Washington were making progress after nine rounds of negotiations. The latest three-day meeting in Washington last week dealt with technology transfer, intellectual property rights, agriculture and enforcement.

Economists say a settlement appears increasingly like. But they say even if that happens, this year's Chinese exports will be lackluster.

Washington is pressing Beijing to scale back plans for government-led creation of Chinese competitors in robotics and other technologies. Europe, Japan and other trading partners echo U.S. complaints those violate Beijing's market-opening commitments.

The fight has disrupted trade in goods ranging from soybeans to medical equipment. The dispute has rattled financial markets and prompted the International Monetary Fund and other forecasters to lower their outlook for global economic growth.

"The reversal of U.S. tariffs would only provide a small boost to exports of around 1% to 2%," said Evans-Pritchard. "With global growth set to remain weak in the coming quarters, a strong rebound in exports therefore looks unlikely."

Chinese exports to the 28-nation European Union rose 23.7% over a year earlier to $33.1 billion. Imports of European goods fell 4.9% to $22 billion.

Exports to the United States grew by double digits through most of 2018 despite Trump's tariff hikes starting in July. But they slid in December once the full impact hit.

Exports to the United States in January and February fell 14.1% from a year earlier.

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