RIP the Asian Economic Boom?

January 26th, 2009 | Sources: Economist

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Asian stock markets dropped faster than those in the G7 countries during 2008. Taiwan’s exports plummeted 42% during the year and South Korea’s fell by 17%. Even China’s dipped a bit.

Do we take these to be signs the Great Economic Crisis will end the Asian emerging markets boom once and for all?

Probably not, according to the Economist. In fact many Asian economies are likely to recover faster than ours.

Economists who predict long term trouble for emerging Asian economies argue that the boom was  fueled by three things—exports to American consumers, easy access to cheap capital and high commodity prices—and all 3 have collapsed. 

But claims that Asian economies rely on consumption in G7 countries are exaggerated. The Asian export surge since 2000 is almost totally explained by exports to the developing world. Exports to G7 countries has barely budged from 20% of the pan-Asian GDP since 2000.

And Asian companies are net importers of commodities, so they stand to benefit from the collapse in their prices.

Meanwhile Gerard Lyons, the senior economist at Standard Chartered, emphasizes that many emerging Asian economies do not face the structural problems confronting America’s economy.

He mentions in particular our overwhelming domestic debt, which might forestall growth for years and blunt the impact of fiscal stimulus programs like the one the Big O is about to unveil.

This is especially true of China. Many expect that nation’s GDP will drop to 7% in 2009, down from 12% in 2007 and its lowest growth in 20 years.

Thousands of factories have already closed in China, and the government rolled-out a major fiscal stimulus package just last month.

But China has debts amounting to only 18% of GDP, so its government can throw several more stimulus packages together if necessary. And these programs would help build domestic demand, thereby sheltering its economy once and for all from our capricious ways.


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