China exports spike to highest in decades after Covid-19 hit

China’s export growth jumped to the highest in over two decades, official data showed today. — Reuters pic
China’s export growth jumped to the highest in over two decades, official data showed today. — Reuters pic

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BEIJING, Mar 7 — China’s export growth jumped to the highest in over two decades, official data showed today, with imports also surging in a sharp bounceback from the coronavirus outbreak that had brought activity to a near halt.

Electronics and textile exports such as masks contributed to the spike in outbound shipments, as demand for work-from-home supplies and protective gear against the virus outbreak soared during the pandemic.

Exports spiked 60.6 per cent on-year in the January-February period, above analysts’ expectations and boosted by electronics and mask shipments, while imports rose 22.2 per cent, official data showed today.

The latest customs figures stand in stark contrast to last year’s fall of around 17 per cent in exports and 4 per cent drop in imports. 

The country struggled to contain the spread of Covid-19 early on, with consumers staying home and businesses seeing a slow return to operations.

The customs administration said comparison to last year is also likely to have bolstered the latest figures, saying in a statement that the “low base is one of the reasons for the larger increase this year.”

Today, official data showed that electronics exports rose 54.1 per cent, while textiles including masks rose 50.2 per cent.

China’s overall trade surplus came in at US$103.3 billion (RM421 billion), its customs administration said.

Chinese authorities started combining January and February trade data last year, while it battled the coronavirus outbreak.

This is in line with how some other indicators are released, to smooth over distortions from the Lunar New Year holiday, which can fall in either month.

Strong data despite off-season

China’s foreign trade data remained strong despite the “off-season”, the customs authority said Sunday.

Trade was also high due to a recovery in production and consumption in major economies such as Europe and the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as improvements in domestic consumption.

Although business activity usually falls during the Lunar New Year period when workers return to their hometowns, official appeals to avoid travelling this year to keep the Covid-19 outbreak in check supported production, the customs administration added.

“Many enterprises in major foreign trade provinces such as Guangdong and Zhejiang maintained production during the Lunar New Year,” it said. “Market demand is expected to rebound further.”

Some companies have also been stocking up on goods such as integrated circuits, iron ore and crude oil imports.

But authorities cautioned that, given global uncertainties, there is “a long way to go towards steady growth in foreign trade”. — AFP

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