China's exports to the United States rose 13.6 percent in the first half of 2018 from a year earlier, while its imports from the U.S. rose 11.8 percent in the same period. Both official and private business surveys reported softer export orders last month as the trade row deepens.
Metal prices also slumped after U.S. President Donald Trump's threat overnight of 10 percent tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese goods dampened hopes that Washington will eventually step back from the escalating row.
China's surplus with the United States swelled in June, data showed on Friday, likely stoking tensions with Donald Trump, who has imposed tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods citing unfair trade practices.
"We expect the trade numbers for July to disappoint since that's when the first round of U.S. tariffs took effect", said Amy Zhuang, China analyst at Nordea Bank in Singapore.
Earlier this week Donald Trump proposed a 10% tariff on $200bn of Chinese goods entering the USA, saying that tariffs already in place on steel and aluminium imports and $34bn of goods had failed to force significant reforms by Beijing.
Imports grew 14.1% in June from a year ago, well below the 26% increase in May and economists' forecast of a 23.5% gain.
After a strong start to the year, growth in China's exports has moderated recently, and is expected to face more pressure from the initial round of United States tariffs.
A man waits for the goods to be load on his tricycle at a dealer selling imported seafoods at the Jingshen seafood market in Beijing Thursday July 1
Industrial metals copper, zinc and lead all slumped as much as 4 percent to their lowest levels in about a year over worries that the trade dispute could dent China's commodity-hungry economy.
But, he said, China has another option - Beijing could reduce the impact of USA tariffs on exporters by devaluing the yuan to make its goods cheaper for American consumers.
"So we would be back to square one", Mr Kuo said, with China exporting more to the United States than it buys from the country.
In June the surplus with the USA was at $28.97 billion, up from $24.58 billion in May, according to Reuters calculations based on customs data released on Friday.
Over the first six months of the year the surplus climbed to $133.8 billion as total two-way trade continued to expand despite the face-off.
For January-June, it rose to $133.76 billion, compared with about $117.51 billion in the same period past year. The surplus was China's highest since December.
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