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China Exports Fall to Two-Year Lows


Workers are silhouetted at a building construction site while Chinese leaders scramble to shore up flagging economic growth as exports weaken, in Beijing, China, December 1, 2011.

Workers are silhouetted at a building construction site while Chinese leaders scramble to shore up flagging economic growth as exports weaken, in Beijing, China, December 1, 2011.

Another sign that the global economy is slowing: Chinese exports in December fell to their lowest levels in more than two years - while imports grew more slowly than expected.

Sales of Chinese-made goods overseas have been one of the biggest drivers of China's phenomenal growth. But new data shows that export growth may already have peaked. Investment strategist Pu Yonghao at UBS Wealth Management said economic uncertainty is reducing consumer demand around the world.

"Export of course depends on external environment. I would expect it to remain weak and slow down. But in terms of the domestic consumption or production numbers or inflation numbers, [it] should move towards a more positive side," said Pu.

Economists says raising the value of China's currency could help boost domestic consumption, but it also could hurt exports by making Chinese goods more expensive.

Pu said weak export growth could bolster the argument for China's Central Bank to slow the revaluation of the yuan.

"This year, export number is [the export numbers are] going to be very challenging, I mean, particularly to [on] the Europe side. That's why I think Asian country probably is not going to be very keen to allow the currency appreciation,” said Pu.

In the United States, the push is on to boost exports. On Thursday, the largest business federation in the U.S. called on Congress to expand free trade agreements in emerging markets from Brazil to Indonesia.

"Ninety-five percent of the people we want to sell something to live outside the United States," said Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Let's get out there and convince more of these customers and consumers to buy American."

The message may be working. U.S. exports to China are at their highest level in more than a year. But new trade figures released Friday tell a different story. Despite a decline in imports of consumer goods, the Commerce Department says the U.S. trade gap expanded more than 10 percent in November as Americans paid more for crude oil and automobiles.

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