With amazing, even surprising speed, the economic crisis that impacted many Asia Pacific countries during the late 90’s has begun to fade. To varying degrees, the countries have begun the struggle toward recovery. What does this mean for your business?

The swift improvement in Asian economies is certainly encouraging news for U.S. exporters. And while not all countries are expected to increase demand immediately, the overall growth will surely support the continuing economic expansion in the United States.

Forging ahead while being mindful of reckless growth patterns of the past, prudent Asian governments have put into place regulations and instruments to monitor the flow of capital and credit.

Although caution is advised, energetic marketing in most of Asia Pacific promises to bring big rewards, if not right away, certainly in two or three years.

U.S. Exports to China Are Increasing

China, the colossus of Asia, imported $13.1 billion from the United States in 1999. This is down from $14.3 billion in 1998, but about $300 million more than in 1997, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported. Granted, U.S. exports to China are small now (tiny Singapore bought $16.3 billion from the U.S. in 1999), but the potential for future growth staggers the imagination. China’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth is expected to reach 7.5% in 2000 and rise to 8% in 2001.

High-Technology Products Sell

Although e-commerce is just beginning, China offers a growing market for U.S. firms using or selling information-related technology products and services. Other exciting U.S. exports include telecommunications equipment, computer software, franchising, agricultural chemicals, plastic materials, and resins.

South Korea Is Rebounding Fast

South Korea is expected to show GDP growth of 7.2% in 2000 and slightly dip to 6.5% in 2001. The rebounding demand for U.S. exports to Korea rose 39% in 1999 to $23 billion from 1998’s $16.5 billion level, marking Korea as a prime market for U.S. exports.

Corporate America should not become complacent about the huge export opportunities in the Korean market. These include inland trucking, maritime, aviation and railway services, electrical power systems, retail services, and aircraft and parts.

Malaysia Needs Medical Products

Malaysia was hit hard by the regional financial and economic crisis, but signs of recovery are appearing. Imports from the U.S. in 1999 totaled approximately $9.1 billion, about the same as 1998. GDP growth in 2000 is expected to be 7% and 6% in 2001.

U.S. exports include information technologies, industrial automation and process control equipment, medical and health products and services, education, human resource development, and furniture.

Taiwan Was Little Affected by the Crisis

The Asian financial crisis had little effect on Taiwan’s economy. U.S exports to Taiwan — and via Taiwan to China and Southeast Asia — are growing, and topped $19.1 billion in 1999. This is up approximately $1 billion from 1998. GDP growth is estimated to reach 6.5% and 6% in 2001.

U.S. firms with quality products at competitive prices will find Taiwan a welcoming market. Major U.S. products exported to Taiwan include electronic components, electronics industry production and test equipment, telecommunications equipment, electrical power equipment, and computer software.

Long-term Prospects for India Are Good

In 1999, U.S. exports to India were $3.7 billion, a slight increase from $3.5 billion in 1998. GDP growth in 2000 is anticipated to be 6.5% and 6% in 2001. While long-term economic prospects are good, serious concerns remain about inadequate infrastructure, high budget deficits, and trade barriers.

The strongest U.S. exports are computer software, telecommunications, pollution control equipment, power generation, mining equipment, metal working machinery, and sporting goods.

Singapore Is a Major Transshipment Point

Of the Asian nations, Singapore is a major importer from the United States. Beyond its important role as a transshipment point for the rest of Southeast Asia, it is one of the most highly developed and sophisticated industrial, commercial, financial, and consumer economies in the world.

U.S. shipments to Singapore were approximately $16.3 billion in 1999, an increase of 3% over 1998. GDP growth is predicted to reach 6.5% in 2000 and 5.5% in 2001. Major U.S. exports to Singapore include electronic equipment, electrical machinery, aircraft and parts, optical/photographic/measuring devices, and plastics.

Good Buys in Thailand for Multinationals

After being mired in deep financial crisis since 1997, Thailand is showing faint signs of recovery. GDP growth is predicted to be 5% for 2000 and 5.5% for 2001. U.S. exports to Thailand were about $5 billion in 1999, down from $5.2 billion in 1998 and $7.3 billion in 1997.

Some multinationals are infusing capital and taking advantage of the depressed market to expand and acquire assets at low prices. Leading U.S. exports to Thailand include airport and ground support equipment, water resources equipment and services, operations and maintenance equipment and services, automotive parts, medical equipment, and laboratory and scientific instruments.

Hong Kong’s Future Is Bright

Hong Kong only now appears to be coming out of a severe economic downturn that began several years ago. The keys to Hong Kong’s economic success — its free-market philosophy, entrepreneurial drive, absence of trade barriers, transparent regulations, and freedom of capital movement — are anticipated to contribute to its recovery.

U.S. exports to Hong Kong were $12.6 billion in 1999, down only $300 million from 1998. Estimated GDP growth is expected to be 5% in 2000 and 4% in 2001. Important products and services for U.S. exporters include telecommunications equipment and services, life insurance, computers, peripherals, and software.

Japan Begins to Stir

U.S. exports to Japan, the world’s second-largest economy, continued to fall, though slightly. In 1999, U.S. exports to Japan were $57.5 billion, down from $57.9 billion in 1998, but still far below the $65.7 billion of 1997.

There are faint indications that an incipient economic recovery is stirring because of a massive government spending program, lower taxes, and some deregulation. Japan’s GDP growth is forecasted to be only 0.7% for 2000 and 1% for 2001.

American companies continue to export computers and peripherals, software, semiconductors, pollution control equipment and services, and medical equipment and devices. Particularly bright prospects for American firms are travel and tourism, and construction and engineering services.

Reconsider Your Export Targets

If you’ve turned your attention away from Asia during the crisis, it may be time to take a new look.

This article appeared in June 2000. (BA)

John Manzella
About The Author John Manzella [Full Bio]
John Manzella, founder of the ManzellaReport.com, is a world-recognized speaker, author and an international columnist on global business, trade policy, labor, and economic trends. His latest book is Global America: Understanding Global and Economic Trends and How To Ensure Competitiveness.

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