The value of imports measured in dollars increased by 26 % y-o-y in January-February. The value of exports remained at the same level as in early 2016. Import growth reflected last year's exceptionally low comparison point caused by depressed energy and commodity prices. Import prices in January were up 13 % y-o-y. The yuan, however, has been losing ground against the dollar compared to early 2016, and in yuan terms, growth in foreign trade was even brisker. The balance of trade entered negative territory in February, something quite unusual for China. The event, however, largely reflects the impact of Chinese New Year. China's shifting Lunar New Year dates always makes statistical comparison of economic performance difficult in the first months of the year. The total goods trade surplus for January and February was $42 billion, or less than half of the January-February 2016 surplus.
The value of imports grew rapidly for all major trading partner countries. The growth in imports from Australia, which was driven by rising commodity prices, was extremely rapid. Compared to a year ago, exports to the US, Japan and South Korea were up, while exports to the EU and Australia declined slightly. The goods trade deficit with Japan and Australia increased and the surplus with the US and EU contracted.