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

China’s total global exports rose 9.9 percent in 2018, its strongest trade performance in seven years. (AFP)
Updated 14 January 2019
0

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

  • China posted its biggest trade surplus with the United States on record in 2018
  • Many US warehouses are already packed to the rafters with Chinese goods that American retailers rushed in ahead of higher tariffs

BEIJING: China’s exports unexpectedly fell the most in two years in December and imports also contracted, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy in 2019 and deteriorating global demand.
Adding to policymakers’ worries, data on Monday also showed China posted its biggest trade surplus with the United States on record in 2018, which could prompt President Donald Trump to turn up the heat on Beijing in their cantankerous trade dispute.
Softening demand in China is already being felt around the world, with slowing sales of goods ranging from iPhones to automobiles prompting profit warnings from the likes of Apple and Jaguar Land Rover.
The dismal December trade readings suggest China’s economy may have lost more momentum late in the year than earlier thought, despite a slew of growth boosting measures in recent months ranging from higher infrastructure spending to tax cuts.
Some analysts had already speculated that Beijing may have to speed up and intensify its policy easing and stimulus measures this year after factory activity shrank in December.
Exports in December unexpectedly fell 4.4 percent from a year earlier, with demand in most of its major markets weakening. Imports also saw a shock drop, falling 7.6 percent in their biggest decline since July 2016.
“Export growth dropped more than anticipated as global growth softened and the drag from US tariffs intensified. Import growth also fell sharply in the face of cooling domestic demand. We expect both to remain weak in the coming quarters,” Capital Economics said in a note.
“Meanwhile, with policy easing unlikely to put a floor beneath domestic economic activity until the second half of this year, import growth is likely to remain subdued.”
China’s politically-sensitive surplus with the US rose 17.2 percent to $323.32 billion last year, the highest on record going back to 2006, according to Reuters calculations based on customs data.
That compared with about $275.81 billion in 2017.
China’s large trade surplus with the United States has long been a sore point with Washington, which has demanded Beijing should take steps to reduce it.
Washington imposed import tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods last year and has threatened further action if Beijing does not change its practices on issues ranging from industrial subsidies to intellectual property. China has retaliated with tariffs of its own.
However, Beijing’s export data had been surprisingly resilient to tariffs for much of 2018, possibly because companies ramped up shipments before broader and stiffer US duties went into effect.
China’s total global exports rose 9.9 percent in 2018, its strongest trade performance in seven years, while imports increased 15.8 percent last year.
But December’s gloomy data seemed to suggest the US front-loading effect has tapered off, and after several months of falling factory orders a further weakening in China’s exports is widely expected in coming months.
Many US warehouses are already packed to the rafters with Chinese goods that American retailers rushed in ahead of higher tariffs.
China exports to the US declined 3.5 percent in December while its imports from the US were down 35.8 percent for the month.
The higher tariffs China levied on US supplies also hit the country’s overall import growth. For all of 2018, soybean, the second largest imports from the US, fell for the first time since 2011.
Even if Washington and Beijing reach a trade deal in their current round of talks, it would be no panacea for China’s slowing economy, analysts say.
Sources told Reuters last week that Beijing is planning to lower its economic growth target to 6-6.5 percent this year after an expected 6.6 percent in 2018, the slowest pace in 28 years.


Petroleum Development Oman to help create job opportunities for 21,000 locals

Updated 5 min 33 sec ago
0

Petroleum Development Oman to help create job opportunities for 21,000 locals

  • ‘We aim to create 21,000 job opportunities in 2019, and we are confident that we can achieve that number’

DUBAI: State-owned Petroleum Development Oman expects to create 21,000 job opportunities for Omanis this year through the oil exploration and production company’s training opportunities and other undertakings.

“We aim to create 21,000 job opportunities in 2019, and we are confident that we can achieve that number. These are real opportunities that lead to direct employment once the training is completed,” Raoul Restucci, the managing director of PDO, told the Times of Oman.

“A lot of the opportunities we are promoting today exist outside the oil and gas sector, whether it be in tourism, manufacture or logistics. While some of these jobs will be created by PDO, many of the Omanis will be employed by other organizations once they complete their PDO funded on-the-job training.”

The prospective jobs would be spread across multiple sectors – from oil and gas, manufacturing, tourism to logistics – as PDO works with the government in pushing the Omanization agenda.

PDO’s Restucci noted the company has already created more than 5,000 job opportunities so far this year. Meanwhile, the Omanization rate for PDO has reached 81 percent and the company’s target is to reach 90 percent by 2020.

“… the oil and gas sectors are highly Omanized, and where you have expatriates, is where you have a gap in skills, or more likely, experience,” Restucci said.