China's trade surplus with U.S. hits record high in 2018

©Kyodo News

China's trade surplus with the United States surged 17.2 percent from a year earlier in 2018, its government said Monday, amid an escalating trade dispute between the world's two largest economies.

The trade surplus with the United States increased to $323.3 billion last year, China said. The figure was the highest on record, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

The leap in the surplus may be used by U.S. President Donald Trump to put more pressure on China to take measures to reduce the bilateral trade imbalance and rectify what Washington sees as Beijing's unfair business practices such as its alleged intellectual property theft.

The Trump administration has so far imposed tariffs of up to 25 percent on $250 billion of Chinese imports, or around half the goods it imports from China each year.

In retaliation, China's leadership, led by President Xi Jinping, has levied tariffs on more than 80 percent of all U.S. imports.

At their meeting on Dec. 1 in Buenos Aires, Xi and Trump agreed that the United States and China would hold off on imposing further tariffs on each other's imports and try to complete talks on technology and intellectual property rights issues within 90 days.

Washington warned at the time that "if at the end of this period of time, the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the 10 percent tariffs will be raised to 25 percent."