June 8 (UPI) -- Customs data published Thursday from the Chinese government revealed the country is the largest importer of crude oil in the world.
The General Administration of Customs reported that both imports and exports increased in China in May. Chinese exports were up 15.5 percent year-on-year, while imports into the second-largest economy in the world were up 22.1 percent, an increase from the gain of 18.6 percent in April.
For the first five months of the year, data show Chinese crude oil imports were up 13.1 percent year-on-year, making China the world's largest oil importer.
The data, published Thursday by China's official Xinhua News Agency, followed a report from Dutch commodity trader Trafigura that oil and petroleum product sales were up 25 percent for the period ending March 31. The company said demand for crude oil and refined products was strong, especially in the Asian economies characterized by strong growth and momentum.
China's economy, while strong, is slowing as the government in Beijing drives for qualitative growth rather than quantitative growth.
For its oil sector, the China National Offshore Oil Corp. said in March it made 14 commercial discoveries and ended 2016 with 3.9 billion barrels of oil equivalent in net proved reserves. The company turned in one of its worst performances in five years with oil and gas revenues down 17 percent from 2015. In its annual statement, CNOOC reported capital spending cuts were sharper at 26.3 percent year-over-year.
Though oil from the United States is competitive with Persian Gulf suppliers, Xinhua reported the European Union was China's largest trading partner during the reporting period, representing about 15 percent of the country's foreign trade.
Representatives from the EU and China met Friday in Brussels to sign off on a work plan that lays out a roadmap for cooperation on energy and climate change.