China's April exports fall amid US tariff war; imports rise

FILE - In this April 4, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump meets China's Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
A private delivery company's courier sorts boxes of goods for his customers at the Central Business District in Beijing, Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Washington and Beijing have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's exports, disrupting trade in goods from soybeans to medical equipment. Estimates of lost potential sales so far range as high as $25 billion.(AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A private delivery company's courier sits on his delivery cart sorting boxes of goods for his customers outside an office building at the Central Business District in Beijing, Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Washington and Beijing have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's exports, disrupting trade in goods from soybeans to medical equipment. Estimates of lost potential sales so far range as high as $25 billion. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

BEIJING — China's exports fell in April amid a punishing tariff war with Washington, adding to pressure on Beijing on the eve of negotiations aimed at settling the fight over its technology ambitions.

Wednesday's announcement of trade data followed President Donald Trump's surprise threat of more tariff hikes on Chinese goods, which jolted global financial markets.

April exports sank 2.7% from a year ago to $193.5 billion, a reverse from March's 14.2% growth, customs data showed. That was markedly weaker than private sector forecasts of growth in low single digits.

Imports rose 4% to $179.6 billion, rebounding from the previous month's 7.6% decline in a new sign government efforts to reverse an economic downturn might be gaining traction.

Exports to the United States are down 9.7% for the first four months of the year following Trump's tariff hikes in response to complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.

In the same four-month period, imports of American goods plunged 30.4% following Chinese retaliatory duties and orders to buyers to find other suppliers.

Washington is pressing Beijing to roll back plans for government-led creation of Chinese global competitors in robotics, electric cars and other technologies. The United States also wants other changes including cuts in subsidies to Chinese industry.

American exporters have been hit hardest by the tariff fight but Chinese industries including electronics that Beijing sees as the country's future have suffered double-digit declines in exports to the United States.

Both governments have said negotiations are making progress, but Trump expressed frustration Sunday at what he called their slow pace. U.S. officials accused Beijing of trying to renege on commitments made in earlier talks.

Economists say even if a settlement is reached, China's exports this year will be lackluster due to weak global demand, putting pressure on manufacturers that support millions of jobs.

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