China's global trade volume rose past year but its surplus with the world fell 16.2% to $351.76 billion in 2018, as imports rose 15.8% while exports gained 9.9%.
In December, exports and imports unexpectedly fell 4.4 percent and 7.6 percent respectively from a year earlier.
Despite the levies, exports to the United States grew 11.3% previous year while imports rose 0.7%, expanding the surplus to $323.3 billion from $275.8 billion in 2017, customs data show.
China's trade surplus with the USA widened a year ago, while the country's imports and exports fell in December as the trade war begins to bite in the world's second biggest economy.
"The export growth print also suggests that the recent strength of the yuan might be short-lived; Beijing will perhaps be more eager to strike a trade deal with the USA; and that policymakers will need to take more aggressive measures to stabilise GDP growth". That reflects the impact of Beijing's retaliatory tariffs and encouragement to importers to buy more from non-U.S. suppliers. China exports to the U.S. declined 3.5 per cent in December while its imports from the USA were down 35.8 per cent for the month.
The country's commerce minister told state media on Friday that China will work to straighten out trade frictions with the USA this year.
U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods have put additional strains on China's already cooling economy, prompting policymakers in Beijing to announce a series of growth-boosting measures to avert the risk of a sharper slowdown.
"Overall economic growth slowed further in the fourth quarter and remains under pressure from weaker exports, slow credit growth and cooling real estate activity". He added that cooperation with Belt and Road countries "has become new driving force of China's foreign trade development". For all of 2018, soybeans, the second largest imports from the U.S., fell for the first time since 2011.
China's trade growth slowed in 2018 as a tariff battle with Washington heated up and global consumer demand weakened.