Overseas sales declined 17.1 percent to $90.29 billion from a year earlier, the customs bureau said on its Web site. Imports dropped 25.1 percent, leaving a trade surplus of $18.56 billion.
Collapsing world trade and the nation’s slowest economic expansion in seven years have cost the jobs of millions of factory workers and prompted Premier Wen Jiabao to roll out a 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) stimulus package. To spur consumption, China is subsidizing rural purchases of televisions and refrigerators and plans a 29 percent increase in welfare spending this year.
The export decline was less than February’s record 25.7 percent drop. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of 15 economists was for a 20 percent decline. February’s trade surplus was $4.84 billion.
Seasonally adjusted figures showed a 32.8 percent jump in exports from the previous month and a 14 percent increase in imports, the bureau said.
Chinese ports’ cargo traffic rose for the first time this year in March while a decline in container traffic slowed, the Ministry of Transport said April 8.
Shipments to the European Union fell 20.2 percent from a year earlier, while those to the U.S. declined 12.6 percent.