BEIJING (AP) -- China's trade growth rebounded in July despite weakening global demand and its politically sensitive trade surplus rose to its highest level in more than two years.
Export growth for the world's second-largest economy rebounded to 20.4 percent from June's 17.9 percent, while imports rose 22.9 percent, up from June's 19.3 percent, customs data showed Wednesday.
The unexpectedly strong import growth is a bright spot for economies that are looking to China to drive demand for iron ore and other imports. But that demand is weakening as Chinese industrial activity slows amid government efforts to cool an economy that grew by 9.5 percent in the latest quarter.
China's exports also have been unusually resilient, though global demand for Chinese goods is expected to decline as economic prospects for key U.S. and European export markets worsen.
The country's global trade surplus swelled to a 30-month high of $31.5 billion, possibly fueling demands by the United States and other governments for Beijing to ease its exchange-rate controls.
Exports rose to a new monthly high of $175.1 billion while imports grew to $143.6 billion despite cooling Chinese industrial activity.
China's trade balance reversed course early this year, recording a rare deficit in the first quarter. It has rebounded strongly since then and analysts expect the country to record a global surplus of $160 billion to $200 billion for the year.
Manufacturing has declined in recent months due to curbs on credit and weaker overseas demand. A survey by HSBC Corp. released earlier showed manufacturing contracted in July for the first time this year.
China's trade surplus with the United States widened 7 percent over a year ago to $20.9 billion while the gap with the 27-nation European Union, its biggest trading partner, grew 28 percent to $17.4 billion.
Beijing is under pressure from Washington and other trading partners to ease controls that they complain keep the country's currency, the yuan, undervalued and swell China's trade surplus. The communist government has allowed the currency to rise but not as fast as critics want.