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The Financial Times - April 1, 2008 by Raphael Minder East Asian nations are undertaking a substantial shift in exports away from the US to Europe and oil-rich markets in the Middle East and Russia and other developing countries, according to the World Bank. Vikram Nehru, the World Bank’s chief economist for East Asia and the Pacific, said in an interview: ”I didn’t expect such a rapid shift towards non-US markets as we are seeing. That is a sign of very adept marketing, as exchange rates and incentives change.” Mr Nehru said East Asian exporters had adjusted well to their currency positioning ”somewhere in the middle” between a falling dollar and a rising euro, which is making European markets more attractive. While annual export growth from emerging East Asian nations slowed from 22 per cent in January of last year to between 15 and 16 per cent in the third quarter, it has since rebounded to between 18 and 19 per cent. The World Bank also highlighted the extent to which more sophisticated domestic production is allowing China to source more of its input needs internally. ”If this trend continues and if other East Asian economies are able to exploit these new opportunities in China’s domestic market then, over time, China is also likely to become an increasingly independent growth pole for the rest of East Asia,’’ according to the World Bank’s latest regional report. ”The character of intra-East Asian trade flows is likely to undergo structural change over time.” Confirming the resilience of exports from the region, South Korea on Tuesday reported that exports in March rose at their fastest annual pace in five months. The stronger-than-expected trade figures prompted Goldman Sachs to raise its export growth forecast for South Korea this year to 10 per cent from 9.8 per cent, ”on the back of a weaker Korean won and ongoing export diversification.” Still, the World Bank on Tuesday lowered its 2008 growth forecast for the region, which excludes Japan and the Indian subcontinent, to 7.3 per cent, down from the 8.2 per cent level predicted last November. It said east Asian growth should reach 7.4 per cent in 2009. The Korean trade data indicated that exports to the US remained surprisingly robust, a key consideration for the country’s technology companies. In its report, the World Bank said that world demand is ”likely to be reflected in weaker East Asian export growth in the coming months.” ”However there is little in the data so far to suggest a steep high-tech-led downturn of the 2001 type,” it said. A strong fiscal position and high foreign exchange reserves could also give most East Asian countries the means to stimulate their economies with one-shot measures such as tax relief if the economic slowdown becomes more pronounced, the bank said. The World Bank warned that inflation was a more immediate threat to East Asian countries than the global slowdown or a further credit squeeze linked to the collapse of the US subprime market. ``In virtually every East Asian country, inflation is climbing to uncomfortable levels while monetary and credit growth is difficult to contain owing to substantial capital inflows.’’

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