BEIJING: China’s annual trade in goods passed the $4 trillion mark for the first time in 2013, official data showed yesterday, confirming its position as the globe’s biggest trading nation.
Exports from the world’s number two economy rose 7.9 percent to $2.21 trillion, while imports increased 7.3 percent to $1.95 trillion, the General Administration of Customs announced.
The trade surplus stood at $259.75bn, up 12.8 percent from 2012.
Total trade came to $4.16 trillion, an increase of 7.6 percent, just below the government’s eight percent target.
Nonetheless it was a record high and effectively confirmed a historic geo-economic shift, making China the world’s biggest trader of physical goods, not including services.
Reports last February said the United States’ total trade in goods was lower than China’s in 2012, but Customs said due to differences in calculation methods the change happened for the first time in 2013 — although full US data for the year has yet to be released.
“It is very likely that China overtook the US to become the world’s largest trading country in goods in 2013 for the first time,” said Customs spokesman Zheng Yuesheng.
The European Union was China’s biggest trading partner, Customs said, followed by the United States, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Hong Kong and Japan.
Between them the traditional markets of the EU, US and Japan accounted for 33.5 percent of China’s trade, down 1.7 percentage points, suggesting emerging markets’ share of business was growing.
“Generally speaking, the environment for trade to grow in 2014 is likely to be better than 2013,” Zheng said, citing improvements in international demand and domestic economic factors.
For December, China’s trade surplus fell 17.4 percent to $25.64 billion, yesterday’s data showed, short of the median $32.2bn forecast in a survey of 13 economists by The Wall Street Journal.
Exports increased 4.3 percent to $207.74bn last month, while imports climbed 8.3 percent to $182.1bn. Societe Generale economist Yao Wei in Hong Kong saw the better-than-expected gain in imports as a positive sign.
“The upside surprise suggested that the domestic growth momentum was largely intact at yearend,” Yao said in a report.