China’s trade with US shrinks as tariff war worsens

Joe Mcdonald
Associated Press

Beijing – China’s trade with the United States is falling as the two sides prepare for negotiations with no signs of progress toward ending a tariff war that threatens global economic growth.

Imports of American goods tumbled 22% in August from a year earlier to $10.3 billion, customs data showed Sunday. Exports to the United States, China’s biggest market, sank 16% to $44.4 billion.

Both sides have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s imports in the fight over complaints about Beijing’s trade surplus and technology development plans. The United States, Europe, Japan and other trading partners say those violate Chinese market-opening commitments.

U.S. and Chinese negotiators are preparing for talks in October. Despite that, the two governments escalated their fight on Sept. 1, imposing or increasing penalties on billions of dollars of goods. President Donald Trump plans another increase Oct. 15.

Chinese exporters also face pressure from weakening global consumer demand. That hurts efforts to find markets to replace the United States.

“The tit-for-tat escalation shows how unlikely a trade deal and de-escalation have become,” said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics in a report. “Meanwhile, the global trade weakness looks set to linger, which will continue to weigh on demand for China’s exports.”

The conflict has disrupted trade in goods from soybeans to medical equipment, battered traders on both sides and fueled fears in financial markets of a global economic slowdown.

China’s politically sensitive trade surplus with the U.S. narrowed to $31.3 billion in August from $27 billion a year earlier.

China’s global exports fell 3% to $214.8 billion, while imports were up 1.7% at $180 billion. For the first eight months of 2019, exports were off 1% from a year earlier and imports were down 5.6%.

China’s global trade surplus rose 25% from a year earlier to $34.8 billion.

Exports to the European Union rose 3% from a year earlier to $38.3 billion.

U.S.-Chinese negotiations broke down in May over how to enforce any agreement.