China's 2018 trade surplus with US hits record high USD323B

Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai China

The data raises questions about the success of the trade war and increased tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump against China in an attempt to reduce the US trade deficit.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is slated to travel to the USA for further talks around the end of this month, with little progress seen so far on the tougher areas of the dispute such as China's treatment of intellectual property or support for state firms.

Washington was threatening even higher tariffs before Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on a 90-day truce in December.

"Today's data reflect an end to export front-loading and the start of payback effects, while the global slowdown could also weigh on China's exports", Nomura economists wrote in a note, referring to a surge in shipments to the U.S. over much of a year ago as companies rushed to beat further tariffs.

According to data from Institute for Supply Management the factory activity in USA has slowed down beyond expectations during December while in China too their manufacturing activity showed contraction for the first time in last couple of years.

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In 2018, the USA imposed billions of dollars worth of tariffs on Chinese products, prompting retaliation from Beijing and a trade war that analysts fear could escalate further and damage the global economy.

But the buying fell off past year after China imposed a 25% retaliatory tariff on the commodity in the summer. "But growth in exports to the rest of the world also slowed significantly, indicating that softer demand was the main culprit, and that a trade truce with the USA would be no guarantee of a strong recovery".

Chinese exports saw the steepest fall for two years in December, according to the latest trade figures. Exports in the whole of 2018 rose 9.9 percent from 2017 while imports grew 15.8 percent over the same period, official dollar-denominated data showed.

Russia-China trade turnover has grown significantly over recent years.

"Export growth dropped more than anticipated as global growth softened and the drag from USA tariffs intensified".

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"Trade cooperation with Belt and Road countries has become new driving force of China's foreign trade development", said Li.

China's trade surplus with the United States rose to US$323.32 billion past year, the highest on record going back to 2006, Reuters calculations based on customs data showed on Monday. However, upon closer look, the statistics noted a drop in Chinese exports and imports.

Analysts, however, are predicting that this positive growth is unlikely to continue for much longer unless a rapid resolution between the world's two largest economies is reached.

"Meanwhile, with policy easing unlikely to put a floor beneath domestic economic activity until the second half of this year, import growth is likely to remain subdued", Evans-Pritchard added.

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