BEIJING: China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a new record $31 billion in August despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Saturday, adding fuel to the flames of a searing trade war.

The figures were released hours after President Donald Trump threatened to slap tariffs on the totality of Chinese goods imported into the United States, worth half a trillion dollars. The world’s two biggest economies have been locked in months-long trade dispute, with negotiations going nowhere and fear that it could damage the global economy.

Trump imposed customs duties of up to 25% on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods in July, and on another $16 billion in August, triggering swift tit-for-tat responses from Beijing. But the tariffs do not appear to have dented the appetite for Chinese-made products in the United States.

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Chinese exports to the United States rose to $44.4 billion in August, a 13.2% increase from the same period last year, according to customs data. Imports from the United States reached $13.3 billion, a 2% increase from the previous year.

China’s trade surplus with the United States reached $31 billion in August, an 18.7% increase from the same month last year and up from its previous record, $28.9 billion, in June this year, according to customs data.

While China’s trade surplus with the United States grew again, it remained stable with the rest of the world at $27.9 billion in August.

Global exports increased by 9.8%, while its imports rose by 20% compared to the same month last year, according to customs data.

Trump has boasted that trade wars are “easy to win” and warned he would hit virtually all Chinese imports if Beijing does not back down and take steps to reduce its $335 billion surplus with the US.

He said Friday that tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese goods are “in the hopper” and “could take place very soon”.

Beijing has warned that it would hit back with duties on $60 billion in American products – a much smaller figure that shows China will not be able to match US tariffs dollar-for-dollar.

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But businesses warn there are other ways China can strike back, through regulations and other administrative means, or even through sales of its large holdings of US Treasury debt.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2018.

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