Asean export decline smaller than feared

Asean export decline smaller than feared

Jetro study shows shipments from six largest Asean economies fell just 2.2% last year

Container ships are berthed at Lam Chabang port in Chon Buri. (Post File Photo)
Container ships are berthed at Lam Chabang port in Chon Buri. (Post File Photo)

TOKYO: Exports from the six largest Southeast Asian economies fell by 2.2% in 2020 from a year earlier to a combined $1.35 trillion, a relatively small decline given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to data from the Japan External Trade Organization (Jetro).

Of the six, only Vietnam posted an increase in exports for the year, up 7% to $282.66 billion, with a 5.2% drop to Japan more than offset by a 25.7% rise to the United States and an 18.0% expansion to China, Jetro said, citing data from customs authorities.

However, Vietnam’s growing trade surplus with Washington and Hanoi’s interventions in the foreign-exchange market prompted the US Treasury Department last December to label the country as a currency manipulator for the first time.

Among the five other major economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines logged a 10.1% fall in exports in 2020, followed by a contraction of 6.0% in Thailand, 4.1% in Singapore and 2.6% each in Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Jetro, referring to statistics from the respective countries.

The combined trade surplus of the six Asean members more than tripled to $133.66 billion, as easing energy prices and shrinking domestic demand led to steeper declines in imports than exports.

Thailand’s trade surplus surged by 144.5%, compared with an increase of 83.5% for Vietnam, 43.9% for Singapore and 25.6% for Malaysia.

The Philippines narrowed its trade deficit by 46.3% to $21.84 billion. Indonesia chalked up a trade surplus of $21.74 billion, a turnaround from a deficit of $3.6 billion in 2019.

Singapore accounted for 27.4% of the six countries’ total trade by value in 2020, followed by Vietnam at 21.3%, Thailand at 17.1%, Malaysia at 16.5%, Indonesia at 11.9% and the Philippines at 5.8%.

Asean comprises the six countries as well as Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

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