BEIJING • China's exports to the United States and the rest of the world experienced a surprise jump last month, data showed yesterday, showing that businesses are increasing transpacific shipments before swooping higher.
Relations between the world's top two economies have deteriorated sharply this year because US President Donald Trump slapped higher taxes on about half of China's imports and threatened to hit the other half.
High-ranking Chinese officials are currently in Washington, hoping that the talks could pave the way for a breakthrough in trade later this month when Trump meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Argentina.
However, exporters continued to rush goods throughout the Pacific last month, with Chinese exports to the US surging 13.2 percent from the same period last year, according to data released by the Chinese Customs administration.
"The unusually strong October export performance seems to be partly due to the continuous front-loading effect and may not be a long-term trend," said Chinese economist Betty Wang at ANZ.
China's trade surplus with the US fell to US $ 31.8 billion (S $ 43.6 billion) last month, from a record US $ 34.1 billion in September.
October marks the first full month of US tariffs on Chinese goods worth $ 200 billion – but the levy rate is set to jump from 10 percent to 25 percent in January.
Mr Trump has repeatedly boasted the US cannot lose the trade war with China, but Beijing's retaliation rates on American goods have further damaged trade so far.
Chinese imports from the US fell 1.8 percent last month, while the surplus with the US increased to 258 billion dollars for the first 10 months of this year.
The weakening yuan, which slumped around 9 percent against the US dollar from the January high, has helped offset the cost of additional tariffs on Chinese products.
Analysts are not optimistic that the upcoming meeting between the two heads of state will resolve friction.
"We don't expect sideline meetings from Xi and Trump as long as the G-20 will be positive," Iris Pang from ING Bank told Bloomberg News.
"We only hope that the meeting will not create further damage to trade relations."
China's overall trade – what it bought and sold with all countries, including the US – recorded a surplus of US $ 34 billion this month.
Exports surged 15.6 percent for October this year, beating estimates of 11.7 percent by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 21.4 percent this year, well above the estimate of 14.5 percent.
"While shipments to the US are well held, those in other parts of the world are growing faster," said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics.
"Global demand may survive better than feared, while a weaker Chinese yuan also helps the country's exporters."
Strong imports showed China's economy remained stable despite posting a 6.5 percent growth in gross domestic product in the third quarter – the slowest pace in nine years.
Beijing can withdraw from the campaign to tackle rising debt, which weighs heavily on growth, analysts said.
"Strong imports, especially commodities, can be an indication of a rebound in infrastructure investment and property market stabilization," said Wang from ANZ.
Despite resilient trade data, analysts predict that the US-China feud will reach growth in the coming months.