Beijing: China's trade surplus continues to fall as its imports, fuelled by growing domestic consumption, exceeded exports last month shrinking its trade surplus by USD 13.73 billion.

The surplus fell to USD 17.75 billion in August, from July's USD 31.48 billion.

Export growth, which was on the decline in the recent months, was up 24.5 percent year-on-year in August at USD 173.31 billion, according to the August figures released by the General Administration of Customs.

Imports expanded by 30.2 percent to USD 155.56 billion, a record high since March this year.

China's foreign trade in the first eight months amounted to USD 2.35 trillion, representing a 25.4 percent increase year-on-year.

From January to August, exports totaled to USD 1.22 trillion, up 23.6 per cent, while imports totaled USD 1.13 trillion up 27.5 percent.

Trade surplus during the period shrunk to USD 92.73 billion, down 10 percent compared the year ago.

Amid China's trade surplus showing a continuous decline, World Bank Chief Robert Zoellick has asked the Chinese government to hasten planned structural reforms.

He said the country should to transform the economy from being export driven to domestic consumption driven, as the global economy has entered the "danger zone" this autumn.

"The bigger challenge for China in the autumn is if events (in the global economy) lead to a deeper downturn that affects demand for China's exports," Zoellick said during this week's tour of China.

"China needs to be thinking about the structural basis for future growth. The world economy is entering a new danger zone this autumn.

"China's structural challenges occur in the current international context of slowing growth and weakening confidence," he said.

As per August figures, EU has emerged as China's largest trading partner.

In the first eight months, trade between China and the EU rose 21.8 percent to USD 372.14 billion.

Trade between China and the US came in second at USD 285.65 billion, up 17.8 percent.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) block was China's third largest trading partner with bilateral trade totaling USD 234.61 billion, up 26.6 percent.

China recorded a trade deficit of USD 15.67 billion with ASEAN during the period, up 69.6 percent.

China's exports of traditional commodities increased steadily while exports of machinery and textiles were stable.

Machine equipment exports totaled USD 227.63 billion in the first eight months, up 16.5 percent; garment exports totaled USD 100.2 billion up 24.8 percent.

Chinese economist Cui Li with the Royal Bank of Scotland said China's exports competitiveness remained undiminished despite fast-rising labour costs, as products improve and production efficiency is strengthen.

Although exports grew faster in August than in the previous two months, experts were concerned that the pace may slow due to sluggish economies and worsening debt crises in the world's major economies, a news agency reported.

Senior economist Wang Tao with UBS Securities predicated that export growth may dwindle in the coming months amid faltering global economic recovery, noting that China's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) showed that the sub-index for new export orders fell sharply to 48.3 percent last month from 50.4 percent in July.

According to the ISM report on manufacturing earlier this month, the US PMI registered 50.6 percent, a decrease of 0.3 percentage points from July.

Furthermore, experts said that surging imports may be bringing inflation into the domestic market.

Figures showed that imports in August expanded at a remarkably high rate of 30.2 percent, a vast leap from the 22.9 percent growth in July and 19.3 percent in June.

The data from the customs authority also showed that China imported a total of 450 million tonnes of iron ore in the first eight months, up 10.6 per cent.

China also imported 104 million tonnes of coal during the period.

(Agencies)