The latest trade figures published by China’s customs shows a 61 percent drop in imports from Iran in the first four months of 2020 compared with the same period last year.
Total Iranian exports to China in the four-month period reached $2.34 billion.
The bulk of the decline is due to a huge drop in Iran’s oil exports to China. In January-April 2019, China was one of a handful of countries that still enjoyed a limited exemption from the Unites States to buy some oil from Iran. By May 2019 the U.S. waiver ended as Washington announced a policy of bringing Iran’s oil exports down to zero.
Currently, China is buying just 70,000 barrels of crude per day from Iran; one-tenth of its purchase volume before U.S. sanctions were imposed in 2018.
As China’s imports from Iran have dwindled, its exports to the country have increased and the balance of trade is now in favor of Beijing.
China increased its exports to Iran by 3.2 percent in January-April to almost $3 billion.
China has been Iran’s largest trading partner for many years, but since 2018 its imports from Iran have declined by more than 70 percent and its exports by 48 percent.