Weak global demand still denting HK's trade performance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 April, 2009, 12:00am

Weak global demand continued to weigh heavily on Hong Kong's trade last month, as imports and exports shrank by more than one-fifth in value compared with a year ago, the government said.

The value of exports dropped 21.1 per cent to HK$175.5 billion, while imports fell 22.7 per cent to HK$193.7 billion, according to data from the Census and Statistics Department. Re-exports decreased 20.5 per cent to HK$171.1 billion, and domestic exports were down 41.1 per cent to HK$4.4 billion.

The trade deficit narrowed to HK$18.2 billion, compared with HK$23.2 billion in February.

In the first quarter of this year, exports fell 21.9 per cent and imports dropped 22.8 per cent.

'Similar to the situation in other Asian economies, Hong Kong registered another month of sharp decline in merchandise exports in March, as the global economic recession led to a significant contraction in world trade,' a government spokesman said. 'As the global economy has yet to show signs of recovery, the external trading environment will remain challenging in the coming months.'

Although a number of manufacturers and exporters in Hong Kong still have orders in hand, the city's export-oriented economy is unlikely to improve in the short term. Consumer demand and sentiment in the United States, Britain and other major markets largely dictate what and when retailers decide to buy.

Last month, exports of telecoms and audio equipment shrank by HK$10.6 billion, or 29.3 per cent, electrical machinery and appliances were down 12.7 per cent, or HK$6.9 billion, and office machines dropped by HK$5.6 billion, or 26.6 per cent.

Hong Kong's exports to Singapore, South Korea and the Netherlands all declined by more than 30 per cent. Exports to the mainland dropped just under 20 per cent, while Germany experienced the smallest decline at 11.9 per cent. Imports from Japan plunged the most at 40.4 per cent, but they were virtually flat from the US, down just 0.8 per cent.