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China's Trade Surplus Rises to Record $20 Billion

China's exports and imports both increased more than expected in June, boosting the country's trade surplus for the month to over $20 billion, a record amount.

The trade figures reported by customs-agency officials in Beijing were the first since China allowed its currency to trade more freely against the dollar. Over the past month, the yuan has risen less than one percent in value, but the figures released Saturday are expected to result in calls for China to make further currency adjustments.

Financial analysts noted the contrast between the Chinese economy's current strong performance and persistent debt problems in many nations of the European Union, which is China's biggest trading partner.

Chinese government data showed exports rose more than 35 percent in June, compared to year-ago levels, while imports rose almost 53 percent. Export growth slowed from the previous month 48.5 percent in May while imports were on the rise from 48 percent in May. The $20 billion trade surplus in June was an increase on the previous month's level, even though economists had forecast the surplus would drop below $15 billion.

The General Administration of Customs in Beijing said the country's foreign trade for the first six months of this year totaled $1.35 trillion, an increase of over 43 percent from the same period in 2009.

Demand for China's exports had slowed in 2008 due to the global economic slowdown. Thousands of Chinese factories closed last year and millions of workers were suddenly jobless, but the new data show that exports have rebounded, at least temporarily, to pre-crisis levels.

The United States and other nations have argued that China's currency is undervalued, giving the country an unfair advantage in global trade. A further increase in the yuan's value would raise the price of Chinese goods sold abroad and give Chinese consumers more spending power. Economists say these factors could combine to ease the trade imbalance between China and most of the rest of the world.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.