China's foreign trade topped $2.56 trillion in value in 2008, but the year-on-year growth rate dropped below 20 percent for the first time in seven years, according to the General Administration of Customs.
The total value was up 17.8 percent compared with 2007, but the growth rate was down 5.7 percentage points.
Exports were up 17.2 percent to $1.43 trillion and imports up 18.5 percent to $1.13 trillion, but the annual export growth rate slowed by 8.5 and imports by 2.3 percentage points.
The trade surplus stood at $295.47 billion, up 12.5 percent, according to the administration.
The European Union remained China's biggest trade partner with bilateral trade totaling $425.58 billion, up 19.5 percent, and 9 percentage points higher than trade between China and its second main trade partner, the United States.
Sino-US bilateral trade totaled $333.74 billion, the smallest increase since China joined the World Trade Organization seven years ago, customs figures show.
Japan remained the third largest trade partner of China and the bilateral trade volume rose 13 percent year on year to hit $266.78 billion last year.
Trade between China and India, the 10th largest trade partner of China, was up 34 percent at $51.78 billion, but 21.5 percentage points down from a year ago.