China's annual trade surplus with the U.S. hit a record high in 2017, according to Chinese data released Friday, a development that may reignite criticism by President Donald Trump's administration over what it sees as China's unfair trade practices.
While China's overall goods trade surplus for the year shrank by 17% as a year-long surge in imports to the world's biggest commodity consumer outweighed solid growth in exports, its surplus with the U.S. expanded 10%.
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The deficit with China is easily the largest among the U.S.'s trading partners.
Since taking office a year ago, Mr. Trump has had to balance his calls for a reduction in the U.S. deficit with the need to gain cooperation from Beijing.
In an interview on Thursday with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Trump suggested he would have pressed for sterner measures to correct the trade imbalance with China, as he promised when campaigning for president, except that Beijing has assisted U.S. efforts to put pressure on North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons development.
"We've been much tougher on China, but not nearly as tough as I would be, but they are helping us a lot with North Korea," Mr. Trump said.
China's trade surplus in goods with the U.S. expanded to $275.8 billion last year, according to the data from the General Administration of Customs.
The figure beat a previous record $261 billion in 2015, according to Chinese data. U.S. figures put the 2015 deficit with China at $367 billion.
China's trade figures don't match U.S. figures due to different calculation methods. Indirect shipments via Hong Kong and other intermediaries is another factor that has been cited for the discrepancy in the sets of figures.
The Chinese data also showed that China's imports from North Korea fell 33% in 2017, a possible indication of Beijing's cooperation with the U.S. over Pyongyang, though China's exports to North Korea increased 8.3%.
--Liyan Qi, Grace Zhu, Lin Zhu
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 11, 2018 23:37 ET (04:37 GMT)