HONG KONG'S re-export growth last year slowed to 15 per cent, totalling almost $948 billion, the Government said yesterday. But infrastructure projects such as Chek Lap Kok airport resulted in imports for the year soaring by 17.1 per cent to $1.25 trillion. Economists said the re-export figures were largely in line with predictions and forecast the rate to increase this year despite concerns about a trade war. They also said that earnings from invisibles, such as revenue generated from insurances and legal fees, had offset the import rise. Edward Leung, chief economist for the Trade Development Council, said: 'Provided the threat of a trade war between the United States and China can be resolved, we expect an increase in re-exports for this year to about 18 per cent.' The Government yesterday released a comprehensive breakdown of trade results for last year. The results revealed that Hong Kong's exports had been hit by a slower-than-expected pick-up in consumer spending, both in the United States and Europe. During December, the value of re-exports increased by 11 per cent year-on-year to $82 million. Australia - facing another balance-of-payments blowout of about A$25 billion (about HK$144 billion), or 5.5 per cent of its gross domestic product - recorded the biggest increase in demand in value terms, of 40 per cent, followed by Canada at 25 per cent and Japan at 24 per cent. But the value of re-exports to South Korea, Germany and Britain fell by 7.1, 6.6 and 0.1 per cent, respectively. The increase in the value of re-exports during last year fell by four per cent year-on-year to 15 per cent. Toys and sporting equipment increased $15.2 billion, or 14 per cent, while telecommunications equipment surged $25.5 billion, or 34 per cent. During the same period there was a $3.1 billion, or 9.6 per cent, fall in the value of road vehicles. Raymond Kwok, head of economic research for Bank of East Asia, said demand for exports was expected to rise this year because of stable growth in the US and economic recovery in Japan, Germany and Britain. The rate of increase in domestic exports continued to fall in line with Hong Kong's transition from a manufacturing to a services-based economy. Over the year, their value fell by about 0.4 per cent to $222 billion, an improvement from the corresponding decline of five per cent in 1993. Mr Leung said: 'This is a result of the relocation of Hong Kong's labour-intensive sectors to China. 'But the territory is still retaining those sectors which require quality control or more design.' During December, domestic exports topped $20.1 billion, or a fall of about 2.2 per cent over the previous year. Overall there were falls in the value of telecommunications exports, but rises in electrical machinery and clothing. The 17.1 per cent increase in imports over the year was caused by imports for production and construction work and was influenced by the cost of imports rising faster than exports because of the decline in the value of the US dollar, to which the Hong Kong dollar is pegged. This was despite a 0.7 per cent fall in the value of imports from the US.