China's U.S. Exports Cooled in First Half as Tariffs Approach

(Bloomberg) -- Growth in China’s exports to the U.S. slowed significantly in the first half of 2018, according to official data released Tuesday, indicating that the brewing trade conflict between the two nations may already be taking a toll.

China’s exports to the U.S. expanded 5.4 percent in the first half, 13.9 percentage points lower than the same period last year, the General Administration of Customs said in a statement on its website. Chinese exports to the U.S. in June rose 3.8 percent, 23.8 percentage points lower than the same month in 2017.

The U.S.-specific data was released outside the usual schedule, as the July 6 start-date for American tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports approaches. There is little sign of a broader detente between the world’s two biggest economies that might avert the imposition of U.S. tariffs and an equivalent amount of retaliatory Chinese duties this week.

Here’s a breakdown provided by the customs:

  • Exports of electronic and mechanical products to the U.S. rose 8 percent in the first half of 2018, making up 62.6 percent of the nation’s total exports to the U.S.
    • Computers and data processing equipment and parts up 3.6 percent
    • Mobile phones up 5.5 percent
  • Exports value of labor-intensive products in the first half almost on par with the same period last year
    • Clothing down 1.8 percent
    • Furniture up 2.5 percent
  • In June, exports of electronic and mechanical products to the U.S. rose 4 percent on a yearly basis
    • Automatic data processing equipment and its parts down 6.6 percent
    • Mobile phones down 7.1 percent
    • Labor-intensive products rose 3.5 percent
    • Agricultural products down 0.9 percent

The first wave of 25 percent tariffs proposed by the U.S. will hit $34 billion in Chinese goods starting from July 6. The list targets a wide range of machines or mechanical products. Consumer goods including mobile phones and clothing aren’t being hit with the tariffs.

The statement didn’t say whether the value of exports was in yuan or dollars. The yuan had its worst quarter since 1994 in the second quarter, losing more than 5 percent in value against the dollar.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

With assistance from Editorial Board

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