China's trade growth slowed in 2018 as a tariff battle with Washington heated up and global consumer demand weakened.

Exports rose 7.1 per cent, customs data showed Monday, down from the 7.9 per cent reported earlier for 2017. Import growth declined to 12.9 per cent from the previous year's 15.9 percent.

The deceleration of exports adds to pressure on Beijing to resolve its costly tariff battle with Washington over Chinese technology ambitions.

Exports to the United States held up through late 2018 despite President Donald Trump's tariff hikes on Chinese goods. But forecasters say American orders are set to decline sharply.

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- Associated Press