[BEIJING] China's total trade volume fell seven per cent year-on-year to 24.59 trillion yuan (around US$3.74 trillion) in 2015, Customs said Wednesday, as slowing growth in the world's second-largest economy and plunging commodity prices took their toll.
It was far below the government's target of six per cent growth in trade, and the fourth year in a row that external commerce had missed its goal.
China's imports slumped 13.2 per cent on the previous year to 10.45 trillion yuan, Customs said, while exports were down 1.8 per cent to 14.14 trillion yuan.
The figures put in doubt China's title as the world's biggest trader in goods. US trade figures will not be released until February, but for the first 11 months of the year US trade in goods amounted to US$3.48 trillion on a total balance of payments basis, according to figures from the US census bureau.
Nonetheless a spokesman for China's Customs said in a statement that "foreign trade of private enterprises shows vitality".
"Progress has been made in efforts to diversify trade partners," the spokesman added. The European, US and the Association of South-East Asian Nations are China's top three trading partners.
China's annual trade surplus leaped 56.7 per cent to 3.69 trillion yuan, Customs said.
December's figures offered a rare bright spot for the economy, with exports rising 2.3 per cent year-on-year to 1.43 trillion yuan.
Imports fell 4.0 per cent to 1.05 trillion yuan in the month, with the surplus jumping 24.7 per cent to 382.05 billion yuan.