Beijing: China recorded a trade deficit of USD 31.48 billion in February, the first time in a year, as import growth far outpaced exports in view of economic down turn in the European Union and slow recovery in the US.

Exports rose 18.4 percent from a year earlier to USD 114.47 billion in February, while imports went up 39.6 percent to 145.96 billion, according to the customs data released here on Saturday.

The fast trade expansion was fuelled by the lower comparative base for last February, when the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday cut working days from the month and skewed trade data, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said.

The week-long holiday fell in January this year.

After seasonal adjustments, the annual growth of exports slowed to four percent last month while that of imports was cut down to 9. 4 percent.

Exports this January fell 0. 5 percent from a year earlier, the worst show in more than two years. Imports fell even more sharply, plunging 15.3 percent.

The country's foreign trade rose 7.3 percent year-on- year to USD 533.03 billion in the first two months, with a combined trade deficit of USD 4.25 billion, the GAC said.

China's trade with the European Union, its largest trade partner, grew 4.7 percent year-on-year in the January- February period to USD 79.8 billion.

However, China's sales to the euro zone slid to 1.1 percent in the first two months year-on-year.

In February, the United States, the country's second- largest trade partner, replaced the EU as China's largest export market, as monthly sales to the US outnumbered that of the EU.

China's trade with the US gained 9.2 percent year-on- year to USD 66.05 billion, state run agency reported.