Dearer imports push deficit to $57b

HONG KONG'S imports of electronics and telecommunications equipment increased by about $25 billion during the first quarter compared with the same period last year.

An additional $14 billion worth of textiles and office machinery in this period helped push the territory's trade deficit further into the red, said the Census and Statistics Department yesterday in its regular quarterly import and export report.

During April, the increase in the value of imports more than doubled the value of the territory's exports compared to the same month last year.

Exports rose by $10 billion, or 11 per cent, to $101 billion while imports climbed $21 billion, or 21 per cent, to $123 billion.

For the first four months of the year, the deficit increased 133 per cent to $57 billion compared to the same period last year.

Trade experts are saying the territory is beginning to feel the full bite of the fall in the US dollar.

A weak dollar makes the territory's exports more attractive to other countries, but also increases the cost of imports.

Comparing April 1995 to the same month last year, the value of imports from France rose 138 per cent, Malaysia 44 per cent, the United States 35 per cent and Germany 33 per cent.

For the first quarter, the major increases in imports were from France, up 103 per cent, Singapore 49 per cent, Malaysia 43 per cent and South Korea 32 per cent.

The biggest increases in re-exports over the same period were to Singapore, up 29 per cent, Japan, an increase of 26 per cent, France, up 22 per cent, and Taiwan 21 per cent.