Courtesy of Also Sprach Analyst.
While country A’s import from country B should be equal to the export from country B to country A, statistics from different countries do not always match up. That is understandable as there are differences in how things are counted.
In the China case, the difference itself is not what interests me at the moment.
Digging into the data from the US Fed, Eurostat, and China Customs, Chinese data of exports to the other two economies are wildly different from import data reported by the US and the European Union. The chart below, for instance, shows the difference between data from China and the US:
That’s not what concerns me. What is more interesting is the discrepancy between European data and Chinese data. Imports from China by the European Union have fallen very significantly this year. Although not as bad as 2009 (yet), the decline this year is significant already. On the other hand, China’s exports to the European Union appear flattish compared to the previous year:
In terms of year-on-year growth (and forgeting about the discrepancies in 2010 for the moment), European data (import) dipped into negative territory for the first time in September 2011, and it only turned positive once in February 2012. Meanwhile, Chinese data (export) only dipped into negative territory in January this year. Also, the decline is much smaller in Chinese data. In March 2012, for instance, European data shows that EU imports from China fell by 18%, but Chinese data shows a decline of a mere 3%. The chart below shows the year-on-year growth with the 3 month moving averages to smooth out the fluctuation. It clearly shows that the European data are painting a worse picture than the Chinese data:
Again, we have to stress that differences in data from different countries are expected. Whether the discrepancies here are within what we can call as “reasonable” is hard to judge. However, as China is telling people that trade is stabilising, I’m wondering what the hell it is talking about.