China's massive export engine sputtered for the second year in a row in 2016. As David Pollard reports, shipments fell in the face of persistently weak global demand and officials are voicing fears of a trade war with the United States.
Exports down 7.7 percent - imports 5.5 per cent ... Recent data has lifted sentiment over China - but not these new trade figures for 2016. They came with words of warning .... (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINA'S GENERAL ADMINISTRATION OF CUSTOMS SPOKESMAN, HUANG SONGPING, SAYING: "Anti-globalization and trade protectionism have been emerging, which heavily increases the uncertainty of the global economy .... We will pay close attention to foreign trade policy after Trump is inaugurated president" Imports if not exports showed a rebound in December. Commodities shipments into China hit record levels. A revival in domestic demand partially masking other issues. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INDEPENDENT MARKET ANALYST, JEREMY BATSTONE-CARR, SAYING: "Beneath the surface, the hard evidence suggest that it's been a tough year. Not just in trade ... but also of course in the shadow banking system and in the credit bubble that everybody knows exist but nobody know quite how bad it is." And Donald Trump continues to unnerve China bulls. With just a week to go until his inauguration, Beijing seen pondering its options. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INDEPENDENT MARKET ANALYST, JEREMY BATSTONE-CARR, SAYING: "China may very well be able to go its own way. So it could conceivably be that the United States loses out as well as a result of any potential trade issues." (SOUNDBITE)(English) MICHAEL FROMIN, UNITED STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE SAYING: "And today we're launching a new WTO case against China ..." In the interim, a new US-backed complaint over Chinese aluminium subsidies has been launched by the Obama administration. One salvo fired in a potential trade war - even before Trump takes office.