China's exports decreased 2.7% on the year in March while its imports increased 14.4%, with a trade deficit totaling $4.98 billion, the first time since last February, according to Chinese customs data showed on April 13.
The deficit mainly came from the lagging impact of the Lunar New Year holiday and large imports of commodities like air aircraft, cars, natural gas and coal.
The Lunar New Year in February 15-22 postponed the re-starting time of industrial plants and factories, while the holiday last year (January 28- February 3) affected February much but little for March. That dragged down exports in March, but imports, affected little by the holiday factor, caused a sharp reversal of the trade balance.
Notably, China's surplus with the US widened in the first quarter, while the yuan rose sharply against the dollar, its biggest quarterly gain since 2008.
China's trade volumes with the US increased 13% on the year to $141.59 billion in the first quarter, with exports gaining 14.8% to $99.92 billion and imports rising 8.9% to $41.67 billion, said Huang Songping, spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs (GAC) in a press conference.
The trade surplus widened 19.4% on the year to $58.25 billion, he said.
In response to the recent trade friction between the two countries, Mr. Huang said China has been never seeking for trade surplus on purpose. "The current trade situation is marketing and stems from different economic structural, industry competiveness and labor division. "
"If statistics, transit trades and service trades taken into account, the surplus is actually not that big," he added.
Some analysts said Sino-U.S."trading war" could potentially not hit Chinese goods in the short time. If anything, it prompted exporters to sell some goods to America ahead of implementation of the planned additional tariff policy and drove the exports.
Mr. Huang also mentioned about Chinese Yuan's exchange rate. In the first quarter, Chinese Yuan has appreciated 3.7% against US dollar, the largest increase since 2008. "We acknowledge Chinese Yuan's appreciation has an impact on foreign trades, but to a limited extent."
The GAC earlier this year predicted that China's foreign trade would continue to grow this year, with improved quality and efficiency, but it would be more difficult to maintain a faster double-digit growth.
(Writing by Alex Guo Editing by Harry Huo)
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