BEIJING — China’s export growth weakened in August as global demand softened while imports showed unexpected strength despite expectations of a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.
Exports rose 5.5 percent over a year earlier to $199.2 billion, down from July’s 7.2 percent growth, trade data showed Friday. Imports rose 13.3 percent to $157.2 billion, up from the previous month’s 11 percent.
Forecasters have warned Chinese economic growth will cool this year, dampening demand for foreign goods as controls on bank lending to slow a rise in debt take hold.
The International Monetary Fund expects this year’s economic growth to slip to 6.6 percent from last year’s 6.7 percent and to below 6.2 percent in 2018.
“The strong import data suggests that domestic demand may be more resilient than expected,” said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics in a report.
Export growth was unexpectedly strong in the first half of the year, a positive sign for Chinese leaders who want to avoid job losses in trade-related industries.
China has been credited with helping to support global demand and weaker imports might hurt suppliers for whom this country is a major market.
China’s global trade surplus declined by 19 percent in August from a year earlier to $42 billion.
The politically sensitive surplus with the United States rose 4 percent to $26.2 billion.
American officials have resumed criticizing China’s large surpluses and currency control after President Donald Trump said in April he would temporarily shelve complaints while Washington and Beijing cooperated on North Korea. This week, Trump threatened to block imports from countries that do business with the North, China’s main trading partner.
“Downside risks to exports remain, in particular in the area of U.S.-China trade relations,” said Kuijs.
China’s trade surplus with the 28-nation European Union, its biggest trading partner, shrank 14 percent to $11.7 billion.
General Administration of Customs of China: www.customs.gov.cn