China’s import growth showed an unexpectedly sharp drop in December in a new sign the world’s second-largest economy is slowing.
December growth in imports fell to 11.8%, just over half the previous month’s 22.1% gain, customs data showed on Tuesday. Exports rose 13.4%, down slightly from November’s growth rate. The country’s politically sensitive global trade surplus widened to $16.5 billion.The widening of China’s trade surplus from $14.5bn in November might fuel strains with the United States and other trading partners. They complain Beijing is hampering access to its markets, hurting foreign companies at a time when governments worldwide are trying to revive growth and generate new jobs.
US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner will visit Beijing this week for talks that officials say will include complaints about China’s currency controls. Washington wants an end to such controls, which critics say keep China’s yuan undervalued and give its exporters an unfair trade advantage.
China’s growth has slowed in recent months after Beijing tightened lending and investment curbs to prevent overheating.
China is one of the biggest importers, making any slowdown unwelcome news for Asian suppliers of industrial components and commodities producers such as Australia and Brazil that depend on Chinese demand for iron ore and coal.