A surprise jump in China's April exports has caused its massive trade surplus with the US to grow further, putting additional strain on high-level trade talks next week aimed at avoiding a trade war over the issue.
China's trade surplus with the United States surged 43 percent in April, compared with the previous month, to reach $22.9 billion, according to data released by the Chinese Customs Office on Tuesday.
That led to a widening trade gap in the first four months of 2018, climbing to $80.4 billion from about $71 billion in the same period last year.
The massive imbalance in bilateral trade between the world's two biggest economies will likely reinforce US President Donald Trump's determination to continue taking a tough stance toward Beijing.
Trump has regularly said current trade practices are unfair and hurting American companies and jobs, and has threatened to impose import tariffs to the tune of $150 billion on Chinese goods. Beijing has vowed to retaliate with tariffs of its own, saying a quick resolution of the surplus problem was "not realistic."
The April surge in the US-China trade gap was partly the result of rebounding Chinese exports in April, rising 12.9 percent from a year earlier and bouncing back from a 2.7 percent drop in March.
Imports also showed strong growth, surging 21.5 percent year-on-year, and suggesting its domestic demand remains resilient despite rising corporate borrowing costs and cooling property investment.
China's imports from the US climbed 11.6 percent between January and April, which however wasn't enough to offset a 13.9-percent rise in exports to that country.
The headline news comes as Washington and Beijing are preparing for another high-level meeting on trade relations, scheduled for next week. Trade representatives from the two sides already met last week, but the talks ended without an agreement.
According to media reports, the Trump administration has raised the demand that China lowers its current annual trade surplus of about $379 billion by around $200 billion. In addition, the US president wants sharply lower import tariffs for US goods and a cut in Chinese state subsidies for advanced technologies.
According to the news agency Reuters, citing sources close to the talks, China has offered to buy more American goods and to reduce some tariffs, including those on cars.
uhe/aos (Reuters, AFP, dpa)