BEIJING, May 10, 2011 - China's politically-sensitive trade surplus ballooned to $11.4 billion in April and exports hit a record monthly high, data showed Tuesday, as Washington pressured Beijing for a stronger currency.
The trade surplus -- a constant thorn in the side of Sino-US relations -- dwarfed the $139 million surplus posted in March and a Dow Jones forecast for $1 billion in April.
Exports rose 29.9 percent year-on-year to $155.7 billion -- a record high value for a single month -- while imports increased by 21.8 percent to $144.3 billion, customs authorities said in a statement.
China's tight control of the yuan and its massive trade surplus with the United States are at the forefront of talks between US and Chinese officials meeting in Washington for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
The United States has led a chorus of international calls for a stronger unit, claiming China's currency control gives its exporters an unfair trade advantage by making their products artificially cheap.
The currency has strengthened five percent against the dollar since last June when Beijing pledged greater flexibility -- but the gains have not satisfied critics who claim the yuan is undervalued by as much as 40 percent.
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner opened the two-day meeting on Monday by placing China's need for a more flexible exchange rate and more open capital markets at the top of the economic agenda.
China's commerce minister Chen Deming said the forex argument over the trade issue between the world's two largest economies was "not founded".
"The way to resolve this imbalance is to ease the export control regime of the United States towards China and to encourage US exports to China rather than restricting Chinese exports to the United States," Chen told reporters.