Container boxes arrive from Europe – filled to the brim with German cars, French cheese and Scottish whiskey.
They return, loaded with Chinese-made goods like iPads and Christmas toys.
It’s a relationship that’s made the European Union China’s biggest and most important trading partner, eclipsing even the United States.
But a festering debt crisis is curbing demand from Europe. Export growth to the continent rose just 5% in November… well below the pace seen just a few months ago.
And even slower growth could be on the way, according to Daiwa Capital economist Mingchun Sun.
“We are not going to see as bad a situation next year as was in 2009. but I have to say that we are going to see further declines in China’s export growth… probably close to zero percent.”
The trade figures add to signs of a wider slowdown. Chinese industrial output growth dropped in November to its lowest in more than two years.
Analysts now expect Beijing to make further cuts in bank reserve ratios to release more cash into the economy.
They may also cut rates in the first or second quarter of next year.
But Neptune Orient’s, Kenneth Glenn, who helps run the world’s seventh-largest shipping line, isn’t reassured.
“We see certainly in the early part of 2012, more or less a continuation of where we are today, with pressure continuing on rates, and demand remaining below long term averages in North America and Europe.”
Such a scenario could have a dramatic impact on ports such as this one.
A symbol of Chinese manufacturing prowess, their troubles may prove an early indicator of the headwinds the country faces in 2012.
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