South Korea's Export Growth Disappoints Amid Slower China Sales

(Bloomberg) -- South Korea’s November exports grew at a slower pace than some economists forecast amid a slowdown in sales to China, the nation’s biggest trading partner.

The value of shipments abroad rose 4.5 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 6.6 percent gain forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Exports to China dipped 2.5 percent as Chinese display and mobile-phone companies grabbed more market share, the trade ministry said in a statement Saturday.

China is increasing its investments to become self-sustaining in areas where South Korea leads the world, including memory chips.

“Conditions for exports are not going to be easy to deal with, including the spread of global protectionism and currency fluctuations from U.S. interest rate hikes,” Trade Minister Sung Yun-mo said, adding that South Korea will take steps to address implications from U.S.-China trade disputes as well, according to the statement.

Imports increased 11.4 percent, leaving a trade surplus of $5.1 billion, the ministry said. Exports increased 7.9 percent to the U.S. and jumped 23.7 percent to the European Union, according to the trade ministry. Shipments of semiconductors, which dominate the nation’s exports, increased 11.6 percent from a year earlier.

Korea releases its trade data earlier than most other major economies, and is considered a bellwether for global demand.

Many of Korea’s exports to China also consist of intermediate goods that go into finished products that are shipped to the U.S. and around the world.

According to the latest economic outlook by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Korea is vulnerable to higher import barriers on Chinese exports to the U.S.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to hold talks with Donald Trump at the Group of 20 meeting in Buenos Aires this weekend.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.