September 2017: NK-China trade figures

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Here’s a roundup of the September 2017 China-North Korea trade numbers, from various sources. Not surprisingly, most indicators are down. Still, China is letting North Korea import even while exports have been drastically decreased in most goods. A sign of confidence that they will get the money back in future exports from North Korea, perhaps?

Washington Post:

On Friday, China’s General Administration of Customs announced that China’s imports from North Korea fell 37.9 percent in September, the seventh successive monthly decline. China’s exports to North Korea dropped a more modest 6.7 percent in September, Huang Songping, spokesman for the customs department, said at a news conference.

Although there is room for considerable skepticism about official Chinese data — and the numbers can swing wildly month to month — there is reason to believe that there has been a recent slowdown in trade, experts say.

Chinese traders in the border city of Dandong told The Washington Post this month that they were feeling the effect of the sanctions, which were being imposed with unprecedented determination by the authorities.


North Korea’s deficit with China more than tripled in the first nine months of the year from the same period in 2016, to $1.07 billion, Huang told a news conference, according to Bloomberg News.

Full article:

China’s trade with North Korea slumps as nuclear sanctions finally start to bite
Simon Denyer
Washington Post
James Pearson of Reuters has been tweeting some numbers:
  • [R]ice exports to N.Korea [down] 85.1% y/y at 2,396t
  • Sept corn exports to N.Korea [up] from year earlier, at 1,160t
  • China imports of N.Korea lead ore 84% y/y
  • China imports of iron ore [down] 98% y/y
  • China imports of N.Korea coal [down]  71.6% y/y

Some of these numbers can also be found reported by Reuters here.

NK News also reported on the numbers:

According to Chinese customs data collated by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), China’s main exports to the DPRK mainly consist of various kinds of electrical items and machinery.

North Korea spent USD$52 million on importing Chinese electronics and machines in August, trade categories which include items like cell phones and computers.

The DPRK spent a further USD$23 million on importing vehicles from China. While some luxury vehicle exports would breach UN sanctions, the data indicates the majority of the imports consist of electric motorcycles and vehicles used for public transport or construction.

Yet China’s most recent trade figures continue to show that despite its falling income from trade, North Korea has managed to increase its spending on Chinese goods, pushing its balance of trade further into the red.

Without its coal revenues, North Korea has spent double its monthly trade earnings several times throughout 2017, and it’s unclear how long the country will be able to maintain the deficit.

Full article here:
Chinese FM defends growing trade with North Korea
Leo Byrne
NK News

All in all, drops are pretty dire. Which, of course, also serves China’s geopolitical interests at this time. That’s not to say the numbers can’t be right, only that usual skepticism is warranted.


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