China’s trade with Australia grew strongly last year, with the latest data showing a 23 per cent increase, reaching 923.4 billion Chinese yuan ($180 billion), driven by China buying more Australian resources.
The China customs agency report for 2017 shows 37 per cent growth in Chinese imports from Australia, worth 642.8 billion Chinese yuan.
The annual trade figures, telling a story of buoyant growth in the economic relationship, was released on Friday as headlines in two major newspapers, People’s Daily and China Daily, told of a worsening diplomatic spat.
People’s Daily criticised Australia’s “diplomatic shortcomings”, after comments by Minister for International Development Concetta Fierravanti-Wells that China was building “white elephants” and “roads to nowhere” with its Pacific aid program.
Australia was “arrogant” for being unable to tolerate cooperation between Pacific nations and China, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper reported.
editorialised that the comments by Fierravanti-Wells “once again lays bare the deep running bias against China”.
In December, Australia’s Ambassador to China Jan Adams was summoned by Beijing after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull referred to allegations of Chinese interference in Australian politics when he introduced new national security legislation to Parliament.
General Administration of Customs spokesman Huang Songping said the Free Trade Agreement between China and Australia had continued to produce benefits in 2017, and trade with Australia comprised 14 per cent of China’s overall foreign trade.
“We hope this trade continues to grow in a sound way,” Huang said.
China’s overall foreign trade grew 14 per cent to 27.8 trillion Chinese yuan in 2017, after two consecutive years of decline.
Overall imports of iron ore and natural gas, of which Australia is a major supplier, grew by 5 per cent and 27 per cent respectively.
“Liquefied natural gas is rising as we are trying to shift from coal to gas in China, considering the environmental effects,” Huang said.
The average import price of iron ore rose 28.6 per cent, benefiting Australian suppliers.
The agency said China’s top three trading partners were the European Union, United States and ASEAN.
As China enforced United Nations Security Council sanctions, trade with North Korea plummeted in December. Chinese imports from North Korea fell 81.6 per cent to $US533 million ($672 million), while exports to North Korea fell 50.6 per cent to $US310 million.
For the 2017 year, however, Chinese exports to North Korea rose 8.3 per cent to $US3.3 billion, while imports from North Korea fell 33 per cent to $US1.72 billion.
China’s trade surplus with the US widened by 13 per cent in 2017.
By Kirsty Needham