* Exports +18.1% y/y in Dec vs +15% poll forecast
* Imports +6.5% y/y in Dec vs +5% poll forecast
* 2020 trade performance robust despite pandemic disruptions (Adds details, background)
BEIJING, Jan 14 (Reuters) - China's exports grew more than expected in December, albeit at a slower pace than the month before, as global demand for Chinese goods remained solid, while import growth quickened, customs data showed on Thursday.
Exports rose 18.1% in December from a year earlier, slowing from a 21.1% jump in November. Analysts in a Reuters poll had expected exports to grow 15% year-on-year last month.
Imports meanwhile rose 6.5% in December from a year earlier, quickening from 4.5% growth in November and beating expectations for a 5% increase in the Reuters poll.
Analysts have said Chinese exports will continue to be supported by demand for medical supplies and work-from-home products in major trading partners struggling with fresh waves of coronavirus infections.
But there are some concerns that a rise in raw material prices and a recent rally in the local currency could squeeze exporters' profits. The onshore yuan strengthened 6.7% in 2020 -- its first annual rise in three years.
China posted a trade surplus of $78.17 billion in December. Analysts in the poll had expected the trade surplus to narrow to $72.35 billion from $75.40 billion in November.
Its trade surplus with the United States narrowed to $29.92 billion in December from $37.42 billion in November. (Reporting by Stella Qiu, Lusha Zhang and Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)