China's foreign trade in 2012 expanded 6.2 percent year-on-year to $3.867 trillion, missing the government's 10-percent annual target.
The country's exports and imports volume totaled $3.87 trillion last year, and growth slowed sharply from the 22.5-percent rise registered in 2011, Zheng Yuesheng, General Administration of Customs spokesman said.
Exports throughout 2012 rose by 7.9 percent year-on-year while imports increased by 4.3 percent, yielding a trade surplus of $231.1 billion, up 48 percent from a year earlier, the General Administration of Customs announced.
Zheng said 2012's trade performance came despite "a deepening debt crisis in the Eurozone, a sharply slowing world economic recovery, continuously sluggish demand on the global market and big downward pressure on the domestic economy."
The country's trade will be "slightly better" in 2013 than 2012, he said.
In December alone, the value of Chinese exports gained 14.1 percent from one year earlier, up from November's unexpectedly-weak 2.9 percent rise. The value of imports rose 6 percent year-on-year last month, improving from November when there was no growth.
Trade with Europe, China's biggest trade partner, declined 3.7 percent year-on-year in 2012. Trade with the United States, which overtook Europe to be the biggest buyer of China's exports, expanded 8.5 percent from one year earlier.
Japan dropped to be China's fifth largest trade parter, from fourth. Trade between the two countries last year sank 3.9 percent from 2011 amid tensions after Japan's illegal "purchase" of the Diaoyu Islands.
2012 in Review
Trade Surplus with US up 8.2%
China's trade with the United States in 2012 grew 8.5 percent year-on-year to $484.68 billion, accounting for 12.5 percent of China's total foreign trade in 2012.
Outbound shipments to the US were worth $351.79 billion in 2012, up 8.4 percent year-on-year, while imports from the US rose 8.8 percent to $132.89 billion, leaving a trade surplus of $218.92 billion, up 8.2 percent year-on-year.
Trade with the EU down 3.7%
China's trade with the debt-troubled European Union dropped 3.7 percent year-on-year in 2012 to $546.04 billion, accounting for 14.1 percent of China's total foreign trade in 2012, which grew 6.2 percent year-on-year.
China's exports to the EU reached $333.99 billion in 2012, down 6.2 percent year-on-year, while China's imports from the EU edged up 0.4 percent year-on-year to $212.05 billion.
China's trade surplus with the bloc contracted 15.8 percent year-on-year to $121.94 billion, customs said.
Exports to ASEAN countries up 20.1%
China's exports to the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2012 rose 20.1 percent year-on-year to $204.27 billion, the fastest export growth amid China's top 10 trade partners.
China's imports from ASEAN member countries increased 1.5 percent year-on-year to $195.82 billion in 2012. China's trade surplus with the ASEAN was $8.45 billion in 2012, while in 2011 China's trade deficit with the ASEAN was $22.84 billion.
Outlook for 2013
China's foreign trade for 2013 will be better than that of last year despite uncertainties.
Global economies have launched stimulus policies to prevent growth rates from slumping, adding that China's domestic efforts to boost the growth of foreign trade will have more visible effects this year.
The export managers index for December stood at 34.2 percent, up 2.1 percentage points from November and marking the first rebound since June.
China will still face a hostile foreign trade environment as a result of sluggish demand, increasing production costs, fewer orders and trade protectionism.