Korea Trade March 2017


Korea: Export growth shows no signs of abating in March

March 31, 2017

Korean exports have been on a solid track for months now. Exports rose 13.7% from the same month last year in March, totaling an over two-year high of USD 48.9 billion. The result was above the 13.0% rise expected by market analysts but came in below February’s 20.2% jump, the strongest increase since February 2012. March’s still-robust reading was largely driven by higher volumes of semiconductors, flat displays, petrochemical products and cars shipped overseas. Policymakers remain wary of risks stemming from mounting tensions with key trading partners the U.S. and China. In March, exports to the former fell while sales abroad to the latter rose for a fifth month running.

Imports reached USD 42.3 billion in March, a sizeable 26.9% year-on-year increase. This jump is the strongest since September 2011.

Korea’s trade surplus totaled USD 6.6 billion in March, which was smaller than the USD 9.7 billion surplus in March 2016. The result prompted the trailing trade surplus to total USD 84.3 billion in March, which was smaller than the USD 87.4 billion in February and the worst result since October 2015.

This year, exports are expected to increase for the first time since 2014 on the back of improving global demand. However, protectionist policies from the incoming Trump government, a potential hard Brexit, and financial instability in China pose major risks to Korea’s external sector going forward. FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast panelists expect exports to increase 2.6% this year. For 2018, analysts expect export growth to decelerate and see shipments expanding 1.7%.

Author:, Economist

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Korea Trade Chart

Korea Trade12m March 2017

Note: 12-month sum of trade balance in USD billion and annual average variation of the 12-month sum of exports and imports.
Source: Korea Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) and FocusEconomics calculations.

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