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Adjusting Chinese bilateral trade data: how big is China's trade surplus

  • John W. Schindler
  • Dustin H. Beckett
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    Hong Kong plays a prominent role as a re-exporter of a large percentage of trade bound for or coming from China. Current reporting practices in China and its trading partners do not fully reflect this role and therefore provide a misleading picture of the origin or ultimate destination of Chinese exports and imports. We adjust bilateral trade data for both China and its trading partners to correct for this problem. We also correct for differences due to markups in Hong Kong and different standards for reporting trade (c.i.f. versus f.o.b.). For 2003, we estimate that China's overall trade surplus was between $53 billion and $126 billion, larger than that reported in official Chinese data, but smaller than that reported by China's trading partners. We also provide evidence that, in general, the actual origin of a good that is transshipped through Hong Kong is correctly reported by the importing country, but the final destination of such goods is not correctly reported by the exporting country.

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    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series International Finance Discussion Papers with number 831.

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    Date of creation: 2005
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgif:831
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    1. Fung, K. C. & Lau, Lawrence J., 2001. "New Estimates of the United States-China BilateralTrade Balances," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 102-130, March.
    2. Robert C. Feenstra, 1999. "Discrepancies in International Data: An Application to China-Hong Kong Entrepot Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 338-343, May.
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