China's trade surplus widened in October from the previous month, a reminder of trade imbalances as U.S. President Donald Trump kicks off his first presidential visit to Beijing.
While the trade surplus with the U.S. narrowed somewhat, to $26.62 billion from $28.08 billion in September, it was the fifth straight monthly surplus of more than $25 billion. Louis Kuijs, an economist at Oxford Economics, estimates that the two countries' trade difference will rise to nearly $370 billion this year.
That would exceed the $347 billion deficit with China hit in 2016, according to U.S. figures, by far the largest shortfall among the U.S.'s trading partners and adding to trade tensions.
Mr. Trump, who will be in Beijing until Friday, has long criticized China for unfair trade practices. He is seeking a narrower trade deficit with China and other trading partners, including Japan. A number of company executives are accompanying Mr. Trump to China.
China's overall trade surplus climbed to $38.2 billion from September's $28.5 billion, according to data released Wednesday by the General Administration of Customs. Economists were expecting a $40 billion surplus for October.
Helped by a recovery in global demand, China's exports have regained momentum this year.
China's exports rose 6.1% in October from a year earlier, compared with an 8.1% increase in September. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 7% rise.
Imports expanded 17.2%, compared with a gain of 18.7% in September and a forecast for a 16.3% gain.
China's robust domestic demand has given Beijing more bargaining chips over Washington, said Shen Jianguang, an economist at Mizuho.
"China doesn't have to rely on the U.S. market, but American companies do need the Chinese market," he said, referring to the group of executives accompanying Mr. Trump.
Jake Parker, vice president of China operations at the U.S.-China Business Council, which represents more than 200 American companies doing business in China, said trade deficits are a bad barometer for measuring the health of the U.S.-China commercial relationship and is a flawed proxy for fair and open trade.
"We should boost American exports to China by pursuing policies that reduce the trade and market-access barriers that China uses to keep out American manufactured goods, services, and agriculture products," he said.
Fewer working days in October and environmental-protection measures at some local governments may have curbed China's production and export growth last month, said Betty Wang, an economist at ANZ.
"We are still pretty comfortable with China's exports outlook, which is consistent with the overall exports strength in Asia," she said. She said that while the Trump visit could yield some business deals, the trade imbalance will need more time to be resolved.
Chen Jianxi, sales manager at Shenzhen Asoutek Technology Co., which sells smart kitchen appliances to Hong Kong, Macau and the U.S., said the company has been hit by the government's heightened environment-protection regulation, which has increased raw-material costs, but it still plans to expand in the U.S.
Artificial Intelligence "is the big trend now, especially in a country where labor costs are so high. So we are confident about the U.S. market outlook," Mr. Chen said.
Liyan Qi, Grace Zhu Eva Dou
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 08, 2017 02:34 ET (07:34 GMT)