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S. Korea’s exports down for 12th month amid trade rows, chip slump

A diplomatic spat that prompted Japan and South Korea to downgrade trade and military ties is an economic lose-lose, experts say, with both countries already feeling the impact. PHOTO: AP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Pan Pacific Agency | COMMUICATION AGENCY FOR PACIFICA REGIONS

SEOUL, Dec 1, 2019, Yonhap. South Korea’s exports slipped 14.3 percent in November from a year earlier to extend their slump to a 12th consecutive month, data showed Sunday, amid the protracted trade row between the United States and China, and an extended slump in chip prices, Yonhap reported.

Outbound shipments reached US$44.1 billion last month, compared with $51.4 billion a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Imports fell 13 percent on-year last month to $40.7 billion, the ministry added, decreasing for the seventh consecutive month.

The country’s trade surplus came to $3.37 billion in November, marking 94 straight months in which the country’s exports have exceeded imports.

But the surplus marks a 27.8 percent fall from a year earlier, the data showed.

The latest figures marked the longest drop since the 19-month consecutive decrease seen from January 2015 to July 2016.

Exports also posted a double-digit decline for the sixth consecutive month since June this year, data showed.

By segment, exports of semiconductors continued to remain weak, nose-diving 30.8 percent to $7.39 billion, taking up roughly 15 percent of the total outbound shipments.

The ministry said the dull performance of chips was attributable to the delayed recovery in the price of memory chips, along with the falling seasonal demand for tech products.

Those of petrochemical products slipped 19 percent to $3.21 billion due to the falling global demand in the face of the Washington-Beijing row.

Exports of ships plunged a whopping 62.1 percent despite the recent recovery following a cancellation of a major project in November.

The country’s exports to China, the top trading partner, fell 12.2 percent amid the protracted trade row between Washington and Beijing.

Outbound shipments to the U.S. edged down 8.3 percent on the weaker demand for chips, mobile devices and displays.

Exports to Japan fell 10.9 percent in November from a year earlier amid the trade row between Seoul and Tokyo.

Japan implemented restrictions on exporting three key industrial materials vital for South Korea’s chip and display industries in July and later stripped its Asian neighbor from its list of trusted trading partners.

Exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries also moved down 19.5 percent due to the rising competition with Chinese firms, the ministry added.

For the year, the country is projected to ship goods worth below $600 billion. South Korea’s outbound shipments surpassed the milestone for the first time in 2018, hitting $604.9 billion.

Overall exports, however, are presumed to have hit their nadir and may rebound early next year following the eased tension between the U.S. and China.

“Starting in December, we believe a slump in exports will be somewhat moderate and gradually improve down the road,” Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo said.

The Bank of Korea (BOK) earlier said exports are likely to begin to rebound next year driven by a recovery in the semiconductor industry.

Earlier this week, the Korea International Trade Association said the outbound shipments will rise 3.3 percent on-year in 2020, marking a sharp turnaround from this year’s estimated on-year drop of 10.2 percent.

South Korea’s exports rose 5.4 percent on-year in 2018.

Given an extended slump in the country’s outbound shipments, the BOK last week cut its growth outlook for the year to 2.3 percent in 2020, which was revised down from the 2.5 percent forecast in July.

For the year, Asia’s No. 4 economy is expected to grow 2 percent, also down 0.2 percentage point from the previous estimate, marking the slowest expansion in 10 years since the 0.8 percent growth posted in 2009, the central bank forecast.

Other domestic and international organizations have also slashed their 2019 growth outlooks for South Korea amid the country’s slowing exports. The International Monetary Fund revised down its growth outlook of the country to 2 percent from the previous 2.6 percent.

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