Korea: Exports contract at a softer pace in December
Merchandise exports decreased 5.2% year-on-year in December, weaker than the 14.4% drop recorded in November, totaling USD 45.7 billion in December (November: USD 44.1 billion). Meanwhile, merchandise imports fell 0.7% in December, better than November’s 13.0% fall, and totaling USD 43.7 billion (November: USD 40.7 billion).
The merchandise trade surplus narrowed to USD 2.0 billion in December from USD 4.2 billion in the same month a year prior (November 2019: USD 3.3 billion surplus). Meanwhile, the 12-month moving sum of the trade balance narrowed to a USD 39.2 billion surplus in November from the USD 41.4 billion surplus in November.
The Korea-Japan political rift continued to weigh on trade between the two economies, but tensions seemingly thawed in recent weeks and are expected to improve going forward, which bodes well for the external sector. Moreover, the highly anticipated “Phase One” deal between the U.S. and China also adds further optimism to Korea’s trade outlook.