China exports
Container trucks driving past the container area at the Yangshan Deep Water Port, south of Shanghai.Reuters

China might have surpassed the US in 2013 as the world's largest trade country with total trade exceeding $4tn (€2.94tn, £2.43tn) for the first time.

For full year 2013, China's exports increased by 7.9% to $2.21tn and imports increased by 7.3% to $1.95tn, China's Customs Administration said. Trade surplus increased by 12.8% to $259.8bn from last year.

However, China's total trade gained 7.6% in 2013, missing the growth target of 8% for the second straight year, indicating diminishing trade competitiveness due to the appreciation of the Chinese yuan.

The yuan strengthened by more than 3% against the US dollar in 2013.

According to media reports, total trade of the US was lower than China's in 2012. However, the development had happened in 2013 for the first time, according China's Customs spokesman Zheng Yuesheng. The US is yet to release their full-year trade details.

"It is very likely that China has overtaken the US to become the world's largest trading country," Zheng said.

The higher trade growth primarily came from increased transactions with emerging markets, while those with traditional trade partners remained buoyant.

The EU continued to be China's biggest trading partner, followed by the US, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Hong Kong and Japan.

Traditional markets, EU, US and Japan accounted for 33.5% of China's trade, down 1.7 percentage points, indicating growing business ties of the world's second largest economy with emerging markets.

December Figures

China's exports growth slowed down in December due to higher base for comparison last year and foreign exchange regulator's move to combat money inflows under of foreign trade.

China's Customs Administration said the country's exports rose 4.3% year-on-year in December, compared to a 12.7% growth in November. Economists expected export growth of 4.9%.

In December 2012, export figure was inflated by the over-invoicing problem, in which speculative activities were included in trade figures.

Adjusting for real value, December exports hit a record high, indicating that demand in the advanced economies has improved.

Meanwhile, imports rose by 8.3% in December, higher than November's growth rate of 5.3% as domestic demand remained strong.

Trade surplus was $25.6bn, falling short of expectations at $31.15bn and $33.8bn in November.

Exports to the US increased by 3% in December from last year, while those to the EU rose 3.9% and those to Japan climbed 5.5%.