China's trade surplus with US grew, while global gap shrank

In this Tuesday, June 5, 2018 photo, a worker assembles air conditioner's components next to the robot arms at a factory in Suixi county in central China's Anhui province. China's politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States widened in May from a year earlier while its global trade gap shrank as imports accelerated. The latest reading on trade comes amid U.S. pressure on Beijing over its trade surplus and technology policy. (Chinatopix via AP)

BEIJING — China's political sensitive trade surplus with the United States widened in May from a year earlier, while its total global surplus shrank as imports accelerated.

Imports rose 26 percent from a year ago to $187.9 billion, up from April's 21.5 percent growth, customs data showed Friday. Exports rose 12.6 percent to $212.9 billion, little changed from the previous month's 12.9 percent.

China's trade gap with the United States widened by 12 percent to $24.6 billion. The country's global surplus narrowed by 39 percent to $24.9 billion.

"With global growth now past its peak, Chinese export growth is trending down," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report. "But progress in U.S.-China trade negotiations raises hopes that a sharp downturn in shipments can be avoided."

President Donald Trump has threatened tariff hikes on up to $150 billion of Chinese goods in disputes over Beijing's trade surplus with the United States and technology policy.

Tension eased Thursday when the United States agreed to lift a ban on access to U.S. companies for a Chinese technology company, ZTE Corp. But the two sides still are embroiled in a broader dispute.

Beijing has cut import duties on automobiles and some consumer goods and to ease curbs on foreign ownership in its auto industry.

"Even if a trade war is avoided, Chinese trade growth is still likely to edge down over the coming year as the global economy loses momentum," said Evans-Pritchard.

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