China's trade surplus soared



China on Friday reported a sharp drop in trade with North Korea in 2017.

China's exports to North Korea also declined, down 23.4 percent from a year ago to $260 million in December, Huang Songping, customs spokesman said in a briefing in Beijing.

The trade surplus continued to narrow previous year, shrinking 14.2 percent to 2.87 trillion yuan, compared with a 9.1-percent reduction registered in 2016 that saw 3.35 trillion yuan in trade surplus.

The politically volatile global trade surplus stood at $422.5 billion, down from $486 billion in 2016.

The rush to export over the last two months of 2017 was spurred by additional quotas from the government.

The European Union, the United States and ASEAN are the top three trading partners of China, with exports to the United States rising 15.2 percent year on year.

United Nations sanctions targeting other exports to the North will likely cut into China's trade figures next year. 2017 imports are the highest since 2014.

In November, China stopped exporting oil products to North Korea, after the U.N. Security Council that month imposed new caps on trade with North Korea, including limiting oil product shipments.

The "continued strength of China's exports to the USA ... is bound to add to U.S".

Washington has also launched the procedure for a probe into whether Chinese companies are stealing the intellectual property of USA companies.

A commerce ministry spokesman, Gao Feng, said at a briefing on Thursday that China will "adopt all measures necessary to firmly protect the country's lawful interests and rights, should the USA perversely take unilateral protectionist actions".

"Uncertainty surrounding Sino-U.S. trade ties might be a key potential downside risk in the near term", she wrote in a report. Last month marked the first time since mid-2016 that imports grew slower than exports.

Data reported by the US government often show a bigger gap with China because Beijing's figures reflect only the initial destination, such as Hong Kong or another port, for exports bound for the United States and other foreign markets. That could mean softening demand for imports as Chinese businesses and consumers tighten their belts.

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