Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Japanese trade surplus with Asian region grows

AFP , TOKYO

Japan's trade surplus with Asia last month continued to grow, dispelling, at least for now, concerns the outbreak of SARS has dampened demand for Japan-ese exports, the government said yesterday.

The surplus jumped 31.2 percent to Japanese Yen 415.8 billion (US$3.5 billion), as exports grew 10.3 percent to Japanese Yen 2.09 trillion while imports rose 6.1 percent to Japanese Yen 1.67 trillion, the finance ministry said.

Officials saw no clear signs that SARS has slowed Asia-bound exports, including shipments to the fast-growing Chinese market.

Exports to China surged 39.5 percent, powered by demand for semiconductors, electronics parts, general machinery and chemical products, the ministry said.

The surplus with Taiwan rose 15 percent to Japanese Yen 153.10 billion.

"It is hard to confirm the impact of SARS on Japanese exports to the Asian region," a ministry official said. "There are reports from Jap-anese firms operating in Asia who are refraining from starting new production and closing factories but there are also reports companies are building up inventories and accelerating output."

Despite uncertainty over SARS, Hideki Matsumura, senior economist at Japan Research Institute, remained optimistic.

"From the latest data, we cannot see any signs that the SARS outbreak has had any macro-economic impact" on Asian economies, he said. "We cannot tell what will happen in the future but so far, the effects of the disease seem minimal to none," he said.

The surplus with the US fell 11.8 percent to Japanese Yen 568.3 billion while that with the EU rose 38.4 percent in the month to Japanese Yen 273.3 billion.

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