The downturn in regional trade should not place Asian currencies under pressure, Salomon Brothers says. Andrew Freris, chief regional economist, said causes for the pan-Asian decline in exports had to be found in individual countries. Mr Freris disputed the notion that there was a common trend arising from a loss of competitiveness. 'The unifying theme in this case is that there is not any,' he said. For Hong Kong, the export slowdown in the first half of this year was mainly caused by short-term contraction in demand and tensions across the Taiwan Strait. The territory's export growth slowed to a nominal rate of 4.9 per cent in the first seven months. This compares with 14.9 per cent for the corresponding period last year. Shipments to most trading partners, including the United States, China and other Asian markets, slowed during the period. 'On a broad basis, the gloom over the prospects of major exporters is misplaced . . . 1997 should offer opportunities to re-examine the prospects for Singapore and South Korea, both of which are currently experiencing cyclical slowdowns,' Mr Freris said. There was no evidence that the downturn and the arising external imbalances would place pressure on regional currencies, he said. 'This means that domestic interest rates in economies such as Thailand, the Philippines and possibly Malaysia can be expected to fall towards the end of this year.'