Surplus shrinks as exports ebb

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Surplus shrinks as exports ebb

Korea’s trade surplus shrank from a year earlier last month as exports dropped at a faster rate than imports, the government said yesterday.

The country’s trade surplus came to about $2.03 billion last month, compared with a $4.48 billion surplus in November and $3.8 billion surplus in October.

The drop comes mainly from a large reduction in exports, which dropped 5.5 percent from that of December 2011 to some $45.1 billion. Imports shrank 5.3 percent on-year to $43.07 billion, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

The ministry attributed the fall in exports to a drop in the number of working days in December.

“The export volume, which had been showing a growing trend since October, posted a [year-on-year] reduction for the first time in three months as the number of working days dropped from 24.5 in 2011 to only 21.5 days last month,” it said in a press release.

For the whole of 2012, the country’s exports came to $548.2 billion, down 1.3 percent from a year earlier, with its imports shrinking 0.9 percent on-year to $519.5 billion.

With its exports shrinking at a faster rate than imports, the country’s trade surplus also dwindled from $33.3 billion in 2011 to $28.6 billion.

“The country still reached the $1 trillion mark in trade for a second consecutive year despite a number of domestic and external uncertainties,” the ministry said.

Korea became the world’s ninth country in 2011 to have ever reached $1 trillion in annual trade. In 2012, it is believed to have surpassed Italy to become the world’s eighth-largest trading nation for the first time in its history. Such a ranking is expected to become official when the World Trade Organization announces its official tallies later in the year, a ministry official said.

Petroleum products, such as gasoline, became the single-largest export item, accounting for 10.3 percent of the country’s entire exports in 2012, as their shipments grew 8.9 percent on-year to $56.2 billion. Exports of ships, on the other hand, plunged 29.8 percent on-year.

Shipments of wireless telecommunications devices, such as cellular phones, dropped 17 percent from a year earlier though the combined global market share of Korean manufacturers further expanded from 24 percent at the end of 2011 to 39.4 percent as the end of the third quarter of last year.

The ministry said the drop in outbound shipments of cellular phones was due to growing overseas production by Korean makers, which expanded from 15.9 percent of their total output in 2010 to 56.8 percent in 2011, and then again to 81.1 percent at the end of the third quarter in 2012.

By country, Korea’s exports to the Middle East and the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations jumped 11.4 percent and 10.4 percent on-year, respectively.

Shipments to Europe, still under the effects of a debt crisis, shrank 11.4 percent on-year in 2012.

The ministry said the country’s exports in 2013 will continue to be weighed down by the European financial crisis.

“The global economy will likely face a high level of uncertainties due to the prolonged EU financial crisis, but it may also see some mild improvements afforded by strong policy initiatives of major economies,” it said.

The ministry forecast the country’s exports will grow 4.1 percent from a year earlier to $570.5 billion in 2013.

However, it said the trade surplus will further shrink from last year to $25 billion as the country’s imports are expected to gain 5 percent. Yonhap
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