US-China trade hits record high despite rising tensions

Trade between the US and China hit a record high last year even as their diplomatic relations deteriorated.

Imports and exports between the two countries totalled $690.6bn (£572.6bn) in 2022, official figures show.

Relations between the countries have hit new lows in recent days after a Chinese balloon travelled across the US. Beijing denies US claims it was used for spying.

The world’s two biggest economies have also been in a trade war since 2018.

The new figures show that US imports from China increased to $536.8bn last year as American shoppers spent more on Chinese-made goods, including toys and mobile phones. In the same period, US exports to China increased to $153.8bn.

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While some of the increase in trade between the two countries is a result of the rising cost of living, the figures also point to how reliant the US and China still are on each other even after years of trade conflict between them.

“I think it’s an important indication of the difficulties of actually decoupling,” Deborah Elms, the founder of Asian Trade Centre, told the BBC.

“Even if governments, firms and consumers wanted to separate, the economics make it difficult to deliver products in a decoupled world at a price that firms and consumers are willing to pay,” she added.

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