China’s February exports down 18 percent

ILNA: China’s exports plunged by an unexpectedly large 18 percent in February, possibly denting hopes trade will help drive the slowing economy while communist leaders push ambitious promised reforms.

 Exports declined to $114.1 billion while imports rose a stronger-than-expected 10.1 percent to $137.1 billion, customs data showed Saturday.

Weakness in key European and U.S. export markets could raise the risk of politically dangerous job losses in trade-reliant industries that employ millions of workers at a time when communist leaders want to focus on restructuring China’s economy.

China’s official 2014 economic growth target of 7.5 percent, announced this week by Premier Li Keqiang, assumes trade also will grow by 7.5 percent. But customs data show combined imports and exports so far this year have shrunk by 4.8 percent.

The ruling Communist Party is trying to reduce reliance on trade and investment to drive growth by promoting domestic consumption and giving market forces a “decisive role” in the economy. A surge in job losses could force them to shore up growth with a stimulus based on state-led investment, setting back their reform effort.

China’s trade data can be distorted by the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls at different times in January and February each year. But even grouping together the first two months of this year still showed exports fell 1.6 percent from a year earlier, while imports rose 10.1 percent.



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