(Bloomberg) -- China’s exports rose at a slower pace than expected in March even as global demand remained strong, while imports surged on the back of rising commodity prices.Exports climbed 30.6% in dollar terms in March from a year earlier, customs data showed Tuesday, lower than the 38% median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Imports jumped 38.1%, leaving a trade surplus of $13.8 billion for the month, well below the $52 billion expected.Although growth slowed from a record gain in February, the data indicate export momentum remained strong in March as the rollout of vaccines and a recovery in global growth helped to spur demand.“Export outperformance remains a theme in China’s recovery,” Peiqian Liu, an economist at Natwest Markets said in an interview on Bloomberg TV, adding that it was due to “a combination of global recovering demand as well as China’s role in filling up the global supply chain gaps.”The figures are also distorted by the comparison with early 2020, when the pandemic shut down much of the world’s second-largest economy. Premier Li Keqiang told experts and enterprises on the weekend to look beyond the ‘base effect’ and use other data and methods to assess the economic situation.The World Trade Organization forecast that global trade would increase by 8% this year, the biggest gain since 2010, after falling 5.3% in 2020. While giving no prediction for China’s foreign trade outlook, the nation’s commerce ministry has said it would push for stable development in foreign trade this year.Xing Zhaopeng, a senior China strategist at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Shanghai, said the surge in imports was due to higher volumes and prices of commodities.“Looking forward, while rising commodity prices may increase import costs in the near term, the recovery in external demand could offset part of the impact,” he said.Other DetailsIn yuan terms, exports rose 38.7% in the first quarter to 4.61 trillion yuan ($704 billion), while imports were up 19.3% to 3.86 trillion yuan, leaving a surplus of 759.3 billion yuan.Exports to the U.S. surged 53.3% in March from a year earlier, resulting in a trade surplus of $21.37 billion.For a breakdown of imports by country, click here.(Updates with comments from economists.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.