China's trade growth cools in December

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China's exports rose 7.9 per cent to US$2.26 trillion a year ago, leading the world once again, while imports climbed 15.9 per cent to US$1.84 trillion, according to customs data.

The BRI has expanded China's markets, and trade with countries in Latin American and Africa grew by 22% and 17.3%, respectively.

For the full year, exports rose to almost US$2.3 trillion, while imports expanded to US$1.8 trillion.

China and many trade-dependent countries have benefited from a year-long global exports boom that many economists expect will extend well into this year. For the full year, it was US$127.2 billion.

"China's foreign trade continued to build on a solid foundation for steady growth, its potential being gradually unleashed", said customs spokesman Huang Songping.

The world's second-largest economy reported strong overall trade data for 2017. Iron ore imports for the year hit a record high of 1.075 billion tonnes.

Trade growth faces pressure for the first quarter of this year as surveys showed falling confidence and new orders in December, according to the customs authority.

China held a $275.9-billion trade surplus with the USA last year, up roughly 10% from 2016.

Strength in Chinese exports "is bound to add to US-China trade tensions", Kuijs said.

China's 2017 surplus with the United States was $275.81 billion, topping the previous record in 2015 of $260.8 billion.

The import slowdown caused China's December trade surplus to surge to $54-billion, the highest since January 2016, compared to forecasts for a $37-billion surplus in December from November's $40.21-billion.

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is also considering several unilateral tariff actions on steel, aluminum and China's intellectual property practices likely to draw disputes from WTO members.