China reports $7.3 billion trade deficit

An Honor Guard watches as a plane carrying Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China, taxis at Andrews Air Force Base April 12, 2010 in Maryland.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: It's called a trade deficit. And China today recorded its first one in almost a year. And at $7.3 billion, it's China's biggest trade deficit in seven years. Does that mean the country's super-fast growth rate is slowing down?

Marketplace China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz is with us from Shanghai. Hey Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ: Hey Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: So the Chinese bought more stuff from outside the country than they sold. That story doesn't sound right.

SCHMITZ: Yeah, that usually goes the other way around. I mean, China's exports were down considerably last month, and here's something new: this winter we've seen imports to China rising steadily. And that's proof that Chinese consumers are buying more cars, more gas to fuel those cars, more iPads, more of everything. And that's a good sign for American companies hoping to do more business in China. The flip side of this news for the U.S. is that it's going to be more difficult for politicians in Washington to criticize China for an undervalued currency if China continues to narrow that trade gap with the U.S. But whether or not China will continue to see a trade deficit is still an open question, because there's a big caveat. This data was from February, the month of the Lunar New Year.

CHIOTAKIS: All right the holiday is big enough to shift economic indicators like this?

SCHMITZ: This one is. The Chinese spent most of February celebrating the new year. So economists think one of the reasons we didn't see much export activity was because the factories here were empty -- everyone went home. But apparently they had time to shop. The bottom line is that we'll know a lot more next month when the numbers for March come out.

CHIOTAKIS: All right. Marketplace's China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz with us from Shanghai. Thanks, Rob.

SCHMITZ: Thanks, Steve.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

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