China's April exports lowest in two years

Beijing, May 9, (dpa/GNA) - China's foreign trade slowed significantly in April, according to new customs figures issued on Monday.

Exports grew by only 3.9% compared to the same month last year, the customs department said in Beijing.

This is the slowest growth in about two years. Imports remained unchanged with zero growth.

Weak exports are linked to severe restrictions that are affecting many companies in China amid the country's strict zero-Covid policy, which severely affects freight traffic.

According to experts, the crisis surrounding Russia's war in Ukraine and other countries' slow recovery after two years of the pandemic is also playing a role.

Trade with Germany marked an especially steep downturn. Its intake of German goods fell by 9.8% But China's exports to Germany also dropped unusually sharply by 9%.

Exports to the European Union increased by 7.9%; But imports also fell, by 12.5%, the customs department reported.

China's foreign trade faces a "complicated and difficult external environment," said customs statistics director Li Kuiwen.

In March, exports had increased noticeably by 14.7% compared to the same period last year, while imports had already fallen by 0.1%.

Many of China's issues are homemade. Shanghai, China's economic and financial centre with a population of 26 million, has been in lockdown for more than a month.

As a result. cargo traffic through the world's largest port has plummeted. Due to strict regulations, there is already a shortage of trucks.

China has pursued a strict zero-Covid policy since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, requiring strict lockdowns and isolation, not only for those who test positive for the disease but also for contacts of those infected and contacts of the contacts.

That system worked reasonably well until the highly infectious Omicron variant struck the country. Now lockdowns are becoming common across broad swathes of the country, testing the patience of those shut into isolation and raising worries about the measures' economic impact.

Despite the high economic costs, the Chinese leadership wants to stay the course, as the Standing Committee of Politburo has just reaffirmed.

"China is a country with a large population, a large number of elderly people, unbalanced regional development and insufficient medical resources," the committee said.

"Relaxing the prevention and control measures will inevitably lead to large-scale infections, a large number of serious illnesses and deaths and will seriously affect economic and social development as well as people's lives and health."

The slowdown in exports is having a major impact, as foreign trade accounts for around a third of China's economic output and employs around 180 million people.

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Saturday spoke of a "complicated and serious" employment situation. He called on all local authorities to give priority to helping companies overcome the current problems and secure jobs.