China's Trade Surplus with US Eases as Trump Visits


China's trade surplus with the United States eased slightly in October but still remains elevated, official data showed Wednesday, as President Donald Trump arrived in Beijing for what are expected to be thorny economic talks.

Trump is expected to seek ways to reduce the huge US trade deficit in his discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his first, three-day state visit to Beijing.

China's trade surplus with the United States has ballooned in recent months as optimistic Americans splurge on China-made products.

The balance in trade again stilted heavily in China's favour in October, hitting $26.6 billion, up 10.0 percent on-year, according to customs data.

And while it was down from September's $28.2 billion, that figure marked the highest monthly surplus in at least three years. Bloomberg News said the figures mean China's surplus with the US could come in around the same as last year's $250 billion.

Trump repeatedly railed against China's trade surplus during the 2016 presidential election but his belligerence on the issue has been tempered since taking office.

Peter Navarro, the White House China hawk who authored the book "Death by China", was notably left from the Beijing travel list.

"Looking very much forward to meeting and being with President Xi!" Trump tweeted on Wednesday as he boarded Air Force One in Seoul bound for Beijing as part of a marathon Asian tour.

Bloomberg Economics Chief Asia Economist Tom Orlik said in a note: "The bilateral trade balance remains tilted in China’s favour. Expectations that the Trump trip will do anything to fix the problem are low."

Last week, the US imposed fresh tariffs on China's aluminium foil exports, with the Commerce Department announcing the Trump Administration has initiated 77 antidumping and countervailing duty investigations since January.

China's trade with the wider world remained strong last month, with its exports to a booming global economy growing 6.9 percent on-year, while imports swelled 17.2 percent.

The figures fell short of the expectations of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News and both figures demonstrated a slowdown from last month.

"The big picture is that both outbound and inbound shipments have softened recently, a trend that continued last month," Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics wrote in a note.

China's transition from an investment and export driven economy to a consumption fuelled economy is well underway though.

"China is relying much less on exports to generate growth," Zhang Longmei, a China-based economist for the International Monetary Fund said at a press briefing last month. "Services is a much more important pillar of the economy."

China's economy has reported a stream of upbeat data in recent months.

Growth in the third quarter came in at 6.8 percent, with analysts expecting China's 2017 yearly expansion to edge up from last year.

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