China's exports shrink most in two years, raising risks for global economy

Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai China

The cost of producing goods in China's factories slowed sharply in December, a sign demand remains weak, while consumer inflation also flagged.

On a global level, China's exports have grown by 9.9 percent past year, but the Asian country also marked a 15.8 percent growth in imports.

However, customs' data for December also showed that exports to the U.S. dropped 3.5 percent compared with December of the previous year, possibly due to United States tariffs on an array of Chinese goods.

For the month, imports also unexpectedly contracted, falling 7.6 percent, the biggest decline since July 2016.

China's large trade surplus with the United States has always been a sore point with Washington, and is at the centre of a bitter dispute between the world's biggest economies.

China's trade surplus with the United States rose to US$323.32 billion previous year, the highest on record going back to 2006, Reuters calculations based on customs data showed on Monday.

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In 2018, the U.S. imposed billions of dollars worth of tariffs on Chinese products, prompting retaliation from Beijing and a trade war that analysts fear could escalate further and damage the global economy. China exports to the USA declined 3.5 per cent in December while its imports from the United States were down 35.8 per cent for the month. China has retaliated with tariffs of its own.

The higher tariffs China levied on USA supplies also hit the country's overall import growth.

Washington was threatening even higher tariffs before Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on a 90-day truce in December.

China's government reports 2018 exports rose 7.1 percent as a trade battle with Washington intensified, while imports were up 12.9 percent.

China exports to the US declined 3.5 per cent in December while its imports from the USA were down 35.8 per cent for the month.

Sources told Reuters last week that Beijing is planning to lower its economic growth target to 6-6.5 per cent this year after an expected 6.6 per cent in 2018, the slowest pace in 28 years.

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