China has warned of a grim outlook for its trade, reporting a surprise fall in exports and imports so far this year. The latest figures suggest a slowdown in global growth on the back of weaker demand.
Chinese exports fell 3.1 percent in June, compared with the same month a year ago, reaching $174 billion (136 billion euros), according to figures released by the government on Wednesday.
Imports dropped 0.7 percent to a total of $147 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of about $27 billion, China's Customs spokesman Zheng Yuesheng told reporters in Beijing.
Noting that China was facing stern challenges in trade currently, Zheng added that exports in the third quarter look grim.
Zheng attributed the slowdown in exports to weak overseas demand for Chinese goods and services, as well as to rising labor costs, a stronger national currency and the effects of China's growing trade disputes with other countries.
However, the figures were also inflated to some degree, Zheng said, because some importers and exporters had previously overstated their business to evade government capital controls and to channel funds into the country to profit from higher interest rates.
China's latest trade figures add to mounting concerns about the state of the world's second biggest economy, which has become a motor of a global economic growth.
China's economy grew 7.8 percent in 2012, which was its worst performance in 13 years. In the first quarter of 2013, the Asian economic powerhouse increased its output by just 7.7 percent, disappointing analysts who had predicted growth to accelerate this year.
The government has set a growth target of 7.5 percent for 2013, as the Communist rulers seek to bring the economy on a more sustainable path of development, preferring domestic growth over export-driven expansion.
uhe/hc (Reuters, AFP, dpa)