Korea Trade April 2017


Korea: Trade surplus reaches record high in April

April 30, 2017

The Korean external sector continues to show outstanding resilience to mounting geopolitical tensions in the peninsula. Exports rose at a nearly six-year high of 24.2% from the same month last year in April, totaling an over three-year high of USD 51.0 billion. The result came in well above both the market consensus of 17.0% and March’s already sizeable 13.6% increase. Exports in April grew despite falling in volume terms, with sky-high increases in export prices in the semiconductor and petrochemical sectors driving the overall expansion.

Imports, although still growing at double-digit figures, decelerated markedly from a 27.7% year-on-year expansion in March to a 16.6% rise in April. Imports totaled USD 37.8 billion in April.

As a result of slower growth in imports and a faster expansion in exports, the trade surplus reached an all-time high of USD 13.3 billion in April, which follows a smaller USD 6.3 billion surplus in March and a USD 8.7 billion surplus in April of last year. The result prompted the trailing trade surplus to total USD 88.6 billion in April, which was larger than the USD 84.0 billion in March and the best result in four months.

Although exports are showing an impressive robustness, policymakers remain wary of risks stemming from mounting tensions with key trading partners the U.S. and China.

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 April 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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