February 26, 2024

Off the Charts: Up or Down, China Trade Surpluses Bear Watching

The countries that have benefited the most are the suppliers of major capital goods, particularly Germany, which have sold China rising amounts of machinery that can be used to produce manufactured goods, and the sellers of natural resources.

In addition, some Asian countries have prospered both as suppliers to China and as countries whose own, cheaper exports have replaced some more expensive Chinese products in other markets.

The accompanying charts show the changes in bilateral trade balances between China and 12 countries since 2007, the last full year before the United States and then most of the rest of the world went into recession. The charts are based on Chinese trade figures, including August statistics released this week.

Over the 12 months through August, China ran up a trade surplus in goods of almost $170 billion, about $10 billion less than in the previous 12 months and little more than half the record surplus, of $315 billion, reached during the 12 months through March 2009. Then, it was exporting $1.30 of goods for every dollar’s worth it imported. Now, the figure is down to $1.10.

Chinese trade figures provide some insights into the problems now being felt in the euro zone. Germany turned a $3.3 billion deficit in China trade in 2007 into a $12.7 billion surplus in the most recent 12 months, largely through the sales of capital equipment that helped China produce more products.

Some of those products replaced those that had been exported by countries like Italy. Over all, China’s trade surplus with members of the European Union other than Germany rose by $31 billion during the period, a little more than the $29 billion rise in China’s surplus with the United States.

For a time in 2009, China’s trade surplus with both the United States and Europe appeared to be declining. That now appears to have been a result of the plunge in world trade, which slowed both exports and imports. Once Western economies began to recover, even slowly, the appetite for Chinese imports increased.

Largely because of its appetite for natural resources, China imported $75 billion in products from Australia during the most recent 12 months, nearly three times the 2007 figure. But its sales to Australia did not even double, and a small Australian bilateral trade surplus of less than $8 billion in 2007 soared to more than $43 billion.

Among smaller countries, one of the sharpest turnarounds in Chinese trade came in Ireland. In 2007, China exported $4.4 billion in goods to Ireland, and bought just $1.9 billion in products. But after the collapse of its economy, Ireland bought just $2 billion in goods over the most recent 12 months for which data is available, while selling $3.5 billion in products to China.

Floyd Norris comments on finance and the economy at nytimes.com/economix.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=64899e6aeaafb63fce30f4528fe291a3

Speak Your Mind