Exports to the United States, China's biggest trading partner, fell 14.1 percent from a year earlier to $52.3 billion in the first two months of 2019, customs data showed Friday. Globally, exports sank 4.6 percent to $353.2 billion.
Analysts usually look at the first two months of the year together to screen out the effect of the Lunar New Year holiday, when factories close for up to two weeks. The decline in exports to the U.S. market represented an acceleration from December's 3.5 percent contraction. Sales to the United States had kept growing by double digits through most of 2018 despite tariff hikes that started in July. as exports rushed to fill orders. But they slumped once the full impact of the penalties hit.
That is the weakest start to the year for Chinese trade since 2016, according to Capital Economics. Washington and Beijing say they are making progress in talks on ending their fight over Chinese technology policy. But forecasters say even if they reach an agreement, weakening global economic growth means this year's Chinese exports are likely to be lackluster.