THE UNITED STATES surpassed the European Union in the first 11 months of 2012 to become the largest buyer of Chinese exports, according to data released by the Commerce Ministry on Tuesday.
The value of US trade with China increased by 8.2 per cent year-on-year to reach $438.62 billion (S$536.65 billion), according to the ministry.
At the same time, China's exports to the US increased by 8.2 per cent to $319.4 billion, and its imports from the US went up by 8.1 per cent to $119.2 billion.
China's trade surplus with the US has also increased in the year, going from $148.3 billion in the first nine months to $200.3 billion in the first 11 months.
The EU, for its part, saw its trade with China decline.
In the first 11 months of the year, its trade with China decreased by 4.1 per cent year-on-year, and its imports from China dropped to $302.3 billion.
Japan's trade with China also dropped by 2.9 per cent year-on-year during the period.
Even so, China's total foreign trade was up in the first 11 months of the year, increasing by 5.8 per cent to $3.5 trillion, although that rate of increase was far below the goal of 10 per cent set at the beginning of the year.
And trade with the US has not been as vigourous in recent months as it was earlier in the year. The past two months have seen it slow below the 9.1 per cent year-on-year rate of increase it showed in the first nine months.
Zhou Shijian, a senior trade expert at Tsinghua University, blamed the slower trade on the US' sluggish economic recovery.
The US economy grew by 2.7 per cent in the third quarter of the year. Yet many expect the rate to be slower in the fourth quarter, as the country braces itself for going over the "fiscal cliff", a combination of deep cuts in government spending and tax increases that are scheduled go into effect early next year.
"US consumers see an uncertain economic future and are tightening their purse strings," Zhou said.