Asian Exports Continue to Surge Despite U.S. Slowdown

By Jason Simpkins
Associate Editor

A stalling U.S. economy has typically been a cause for a concern among Asian exporters, which have traditionally been over-reliant on the American consumer for business.  However, those concerns have been assuaged recently, as many exporters throughout the Pacific have found a significant demand for their goods in other markets.

Exports to the European Union from China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan grew by 22.4% year-over-year in the first-quarter according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS). Exports from those four Asian nations to emerging markets, excluding China, have grown by 36.5% for two consecutive quarters now.

"The ability of Japanese exports - and those from around the region - to continue to grow despite stagnant demand from the US has been one of the most striking features of the past year," Macquarie Bank economist Richard Jerram told the Financial Times

Exports to the United States from the four Asian export juggernauts grew 4.7% in the first-quarter, their slowest rate of growth since 2003, according to Goldman Sachs.

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Demand is even strong in smaller countries such as Singapore. After falling 2.6% in March - when shipments to the United States fell at the sharpest rate in more than six years - non-oil exports rose 1.6% in April from March, Reuters News Agency reported.

Non-oil exports in April rose 5.4% from a year earlier to $10.2 billion, according to trade agency International Enterprise Singapore. That compares with a 5.9% fall in March.  Singapore's shipments to the United States fell at an annual rate of 16.9%, but exports to Europe and China climbed 16.9% and 19.2% respectively.

"Exports to the U.S. continue to be in the doldrums but the EU and China are still strong. Singapore has been able to decouple from the U.S. to some degree," Joseph Tan, a strategist at Fortis NV told Reuters.

In South Korea, which relies on overseas sales for 40% of its gross domestic product, exports rose 27% in April, the fastest annual pace in more than three years. Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. (LEH) has already raised its 2008 forecast for export growth in South Korea from 8.2% to 9.3%.

Vietnam plans to raise exports to Africa, the Middle East and south Asia to $2.3 billion this year, an increase of 33% from last year, the Vietnam News reported, citing an unnamed official at the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

"We have a lot of evidence to support the decoupling view," Timothy Bond, Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.'s (MER) chief Asia economist, told the AFP, referring to a view that Asian economies are moving away from dependence on the U.S. market, to a more diversified base.

According to Bond, the stronger euro, which makes Asian goods cheaper to European customers, is the main reason Asian exports to Europe have been growing 25%-28% annually.

"Europe has been the main driver of Asian exports over the past few years, not the [United States]," Bond said.
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