Exports rose at a stronger 14.5 percent year-on-year to USD 226.6 billion in September, after a 9.8 percent rise in the previous month. It was the fastest growth in outbound shipments since February, despite intense trade tensions with the US. The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on USD 250 billion of Chinese goods so far this year and Beijing has retaliated with punitive taxes on USD 110 billion of US products. President Trump has also pledged to put more tariffs on an additional USD 257 billion of Chinese products. Still, China's export data has been resilient to tariffs, possibly as companies increased shipments before tariffs go into effect. Unwrought aluminium and aluminium product exports surged 37 percent year-on-year to 507,000 tonnes, but were down 0.6 percent month-on-month from a downwardly revised 510,000 tonnes in August, which remained the second-highest on record. China is the world's top producer of steel and aluminium. The US has imposed tariffs of 25 percent on Chinese steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium imports since March 23rd. However, a lower yuan has helped Chinese metal exports. China's steel product exports went up 15.8 percent year-on-year to 5.95 million tonnes in September and was up 1.4 percent from a revised figure of 5.87 million tonnes in August. Chinese aluminium exports are expected to surge further in coming months after Beijing boosted tax rebates for exports of semi-fabricated aluminium, or semis, to 16 percent from 13 percent with effect from 1st November.
Imports expanded 14.3 percent to USD 189.49 billion, compared to a 20 percent advance in a month earlier and slightly below estimates of 15 percent. China's unwrought copper imports jumped 21.2 percent from a year earlier to 521,000 tonnes and soared 24 percent from August's 420,000 tonnes, reaching the highest since March of 2016. Also, imports of copper concentrate rose 21.2 percent to an all-time high of 1.93 million tonnes, and grew 16.3 percent from a month earlier of 1.66 million tonnes. On the other hand, purchases of iron ore fell 9.5 percent year-on-year to 93.08 million tonnes, but were up 4.2 percent from August's 89.34 million tonnes as steel mills increased output ahead of winter production restrictions. Natural gas imports came in at 7.62 million tonnes in September, down from 7.76 million tonnes in August. Meanwhile, imports of soybeans were little changed year-on-year at 8.01 million tonnes (vs 8.11 million tonnes in September 2017). Chinese buyers have been scooping up Brazilian beans after Beijing in July imposed a 25 percent tariff on US products worth USD 34 billion, including soybeans.
The trade surplus with the US, China's largest export market, widened to a fresh record high of USD 34.13 billion in September from USD 31.05 billion in August. Exports to the country rose 13 percent, while imports increased 9 percent.