China’s trade surplus has narrowed to its lowest since July 2004, with exports slowing and imports growing at their fastest for more than a year. The customs bureau said the surplus fell to US$2.45 billion from US$9.49 billion in January. Higher oil prices boosted the value of overseas purchases, giving imports a rise of 30%. Last year’s record surplus of US$102 billion led to political friction that China could well do without, particularly if the United States decides to impose punitive tariffs. Exports increased by 22% in February following a 28% rise in January – a difference that could be put down to changing business habits around the Lunar New Year.