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Trade deficit continues despite brisk exports

A view of Sejong, where the government complex is located (The Korea Herald)
A view of Sejong, where the government complex is located (The Korea Herald)
 SEJONG -- South Korea posted a trade deficit for the second consecutive month in the wake of spiraling import prices of raw materials, despite its brisk outbound shipments.

According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the nation’s exports increased by 21.5 percent on-year to record $61.5 billion in May. This marked the second-highest in history, behind the $63.8 billion posted in March this year.

This was an all-time high performance since the nation started compiling the relevant trade data, based on comparisons for the month of May in past years.

Nonetheless, the trade balance was in the red last month as import volume reached $63.2 billion, up 32 percent compared to a year earlier, when the deficit was a recorded $1.7 billion. In April, the nation posted a trade deficit of $2.5 billion.

Ministry data showed that exports recorded double-digit growth for the 15th consecutive month, and positive growth for the 19th consecutive month.

Outbound shipments of petroleum products surged by 107 percent in May on-year. A 29.1 percent growth was seen in computers, 26.9 percent in steel, 24.6 percent in bio-health products and 15 percent in semiconductors.

Performance was also robust in shipments of automobiles, with an 18.9 percent growth, 14 percent in petrochemicals, 13.9 percent in rechargeable batteries, 10.9 percent in home appliances and 8.4 percent in mobile communications.

By export destination, shipments to the US increased by 29.2 percent, the European Union by 23.5 percent, the Association of South-East Asian Nations by 23 percent and Japan by 19.9 percent.

While export growth to China, Korea’s largest trading partner, stayed at 1.2 percent, shipments to India and the Middle East surged by 70.3 percent and 48.8 percent, respectively. Exports to South and Central American countries climbed by 32.5 percent.

It is estimated that the relatively low growth in exports to China was attributed to the lockdown of Shanghai amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war has brought about a spike in import prices of crude and other energy-related products, with the import volume of crude surging by 35 percent on-year. Imports of liquefied natural gas and coal increased by 13.2 percent and 19.4 percent, respectively.

The Trade Ministry said major countries including Japan, France, Italy and the US are suffering a trade deficit amid the rising energy prices. It said Japan posted a deficit for 10 straight months.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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