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Korea world’s 6th-largest exporter

Korea is now the world’s sixth-largest exporter, World Trade Organization rankings show.

Shipments from Korea totaled $526.9 billion in 2015, down nearly 8 percent from a year ago as global markets slumbered. But its share of world trade grew by 0.11 percentage point to 3.46 percent, pushing the country a notch up to its highest level in the WTO rankings. Global trade shrunk more than 10 percent last year.

“Weak demand and low oil prices weighed down on global trade last year, but Korea and China fared better than the U.S., Europe and Japan,” said Moon Byung-gi, senior researcher at Korea International Trade Association. 
(The Korea Herald)
(The Korea Herald)

Korea’s trade rankings moved from 12th in 2008 to ninth in 2009 and then to seventh in 2010. Sixth is the highest the country has ever reached.

China retained its position at the top in 2015, logging total shipments of $2.27 trillion. The U.S. ranked second with $1.5 trillion, followed by Germany at $1.3 trillion, Japan at $625 billion and the Netherlands at $567 billion.

Chasing Korea in the seventh and eighth places were Hong Kong with $510 billion and France with $505 billion.

The news of Korea’s ascent would have been hailed by Koreans as a major feat for the country, which just half a century ago was one of the world’s poorest countries in the world, but the mood here was not celebratory.

A string of local data showed that exports -- the main driver of growth accounting for nearly half of the country’s gross domestic product -- were losing steam at an alarming pace. The rapid contraction of exports, if continued, is feared to take much heat out of the economy’s ongoing, but fragile, recovery amid persistently weak domestic consumption.

Outbound shipments plunged 18.5 percent on-year in January, the fastest drop since the 2008 global financial crisis. What appeared more troublesome was that exports of smartphones, computer chips, display panels and other high-tech goods plummeted 17.8 percent last month, the most since 2001, leading the decline in overall shipments. Information and communications technology exports take up nearly a third of all exports.

To shore up the flagging exports, the Korean government Wednesday unveiled a 44 trillion won ($35.8 billion) plan to invest in electric cars and other new technology sectors over the next three years.

“The plan involves short-term measures aimed at tackling the recent export doldrums and long-term programs to spur the private sector into investing in new industries in order to develop new export items,” the Trade Ministry said in a news release.

By Lee Sun-young