China trade surplus with US widens 7.1% to $317 bn in 2020: official

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Donald Trump made narrowing the trade gap with China a key priority when he came to office four years ago

China's trade surplus with the United States widened last year despite a partial trade deal requiring Beijing to boost purchases, official figures showed Thursday.

Donald Trump had made closing the trade gap with China a priority when he took office four years ago and launched a bruising trade war with Beijing.

But China's customs administration data showed the surplus climbed 7.1 percent to $316.9 billion, with outbound shipments boosted by sales of electronics goods and protective gear.

Although the world's second-largest economy sufered a record contraction in the first quarter of last year as the coronavirus essentially brought activity to a halt, it soon recovered as lockdowns in the country were eased and medical exports soared.

For the whole of 2020, China's exports rose 3.6 percent, although imports shrank 1.1 percent.

In December, however, both exports and imports rose more than expected at 18.1 percent and 6.5 percent respectively.

Customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Thursday that "facing unprecedented difficulties and challenges, our country's imports and exports delivered a brilliant report card", adding that the outcome was "significantly better than expected".

Li said outbound shipments of mechanical and electrical products rose, with increases seen in notebook computers, household appliances and medical instruments and equipment.

Textile exports including masks -- which surged in demand globally during the pandemic -- rose 30.4 percent in yuan terms, he added.

bys/rox/dan