China’s trade situation remains tough

China’s foreign trade still faces a tough situation in 2013 despite a better January performance, as overseas demand remains sluggish, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) warned Wednesday.

Earlier customs data showed that China’s foreign trade surged 26.7 percent year on year to 2.17 trillion yuan (345.5 billion U.S. dollars) in January. The rise was bigger than the 10.2-percent growth seen in December.

Exports and imports rose 25 percent and 28.8 percent from a year earlier, respectively.

January data showed that foreign trade has further stabilized thanks to a range of pro-growth measures, although the stabilization does not necessarily signify a sharp increase or a rebound due to more working days, MOC spokesman Shen Danyang said at a press conference.

There were 22 working days in January, five days more than last year, when the seven-day Spring Festival holiday fell during the first month of the year.

After adjusting for seasonal factors, foreign trade went up 8.1 percent year on year in January. Furthermore, on a monthly basis, January’s trade volume dropped 5.8 percent from December, even with one more working day, according to customs data.

Shen said the January data fall within expectations, but do not indicate whether this year’s foreign trade will fare better.

Due to the Spring Festival holiday, the year-on-year increase in China’s foreign trade might narrow in February, especially compared with the near-30 percent growth seen in February last year, Shen predicted.

In response to reports that China has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s biggest trader, Shen reiterated that China’s total foreign trade fell 15.64 billion U.S. dollars short of the U.S. according to measurements adopted by the WTO.

The WTO will release its official global foreign trade rankings around late February or early March, the ministry added.