11/09/2011 09:53 EST | Updated 01/09/2012 05:12 EST

Government says China's October exports weaken while import growth rises; surplus $17 billion

BEIJING, China - China's government says export growth fell in October amid weak U.S. and European demand but import growth accelerated.

Trade data Thursday showed China's politically volatile global trade surplus narrowed to $17 billion for the month.

Export growth weakened to a still-robust 15.9 per cent from September's 17.1 per cent as Europe's debt crisis and high U.S. unemployment cut into demand for Chinese goods.

But in a sign that China's own economy is still relatively strong, imports rose 28.7 per cent, up sharply from the previous month's 20.9 per cent rate.