China's trade boom hits speed bump as December imports growth slows sharply

China's exports and imports both contracted for two consecutive years before 2017.

The government is planning to announce GDP data for 2017 next week.

The figures were in stark contrast to 2016, when cross-strait trade declined by an annual 4.5 percent to US$179.6 billion, according to data from the Department of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs in China' Ministry of Commerce.

Full-year shipments rose 5 percent to a record high of 1.075 billion tonnes, exceeding 1 billion tonnes for a second year.

China's trade surplus with the USA swelled to an all-time high previous year despite Beijing taking steps to rein it in, potentially further inflaming a tense economic relationship.

Foreign trade has become one of China's most dynamic and fastest-growing sectors, placing the country among the world's leading traders during the past decade.

The Trump administration has pursued actions against what it says are unfairly priced Chinese exports both unilaterally under USA laws and at the World Trade Organization. His administration has slapped anti-dumping tariffs on a range of Chinese imports, such as aluminum and steel, and toughened its stance on Chinese investment in the U.S. Also, an investigation is proceeding on whether China is forcing American companies to turn over proprietary technologies and information in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

Huang Songping, a commerce ministry spokesman, said the numbers reflect the "mild recovery of the world economy a year ago".

"For 2018, we think solid global growth will likely provide some support for Chinese export growth", Nomura economists wrote in a note.

"Uncertainty surrounding Sino-U.S. trade ties might be a key potential downside risk in the near term", she wrote in a report.

Commodities imports were mixed, with copper purchases down 8.2 percent year-on-year by volume in December while coal and natural gas imports were up.

Vanessa Coleman