China's exports rose in December, capping a year of stronger trade growth buoyed by a robust global economy.
Imports had been forecast to rise 13.0 per cent, softening from an 17.7 per cent gain seen in November, with the trade surplus tipped at US$37.0 billion last month from November's US$40.21 billion.
In November, China imported no iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea, the second full month of the United Nations trade sanctions.
China's trade surplus with the United States reached $275.8 billion in 2017 and the monthly surplus with the USA was $25.6 billion in December.
It will be hard to keep up double-digit trade growth this year given global uncertainties and a high comparison base, Huang said.
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The weaker imports in December backs recent data showing a slowdown in economic growth is underway, with domestic demand hit by the government's intensified war on polluting factories and a crackdown on debt risks.
"We have long since expected China's domestic demand and imports to slow in 2018 on gradually tighter monetary and financial policies, and slower real estate activity", Kuijs said.
Trump will have opportunities to impose tariffs on a range of Chinese goods.
He estimated that imports declined by the biggest margin in nearly two years in volume terms in December as purchases of industrial commodities plummeted.
Trade growth momentum is waning as both exports and imports fell in December. "A major uncertainty is potential China-US trade frictions".
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China's goods surplus with the United States, a sore spot in relations between the two nations, hit a record high of $275.81-billion past year - topping the previous record in 2015 of $260.8-billion.
The world's second-largest economy had a surplus of $25.55 billion in December, data showed, compared to $27.87 billion in November.
Chinese imports grew more slowly than exports for the first time since mid-2016, "reflecting the diverging prospects for growth in China and the rest of the world", Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics Ltd said in a report.
Solid global growth may provide some support for export growth, but, real effective exchange rate appreciation and an increase in US protectionism could weigh on exports, narrowing the trade surplus further, according to securities trader Nomura.
The U.S. government hasn't announced its own trade figures for the whole of 2017, but experts say they are also likely to show a massive deficit with China.
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