UN says Asian tech exports far outpace US

Feb 02, 2011 JOHN HEILPRIN , Associated Press
A man uses his mobile phone near the sign advertising Samsung Electronics Co's HD TV screen at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. Samsung Electronics said net profit rose 13 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 amid higher sales of semiconductors and smartphones as the technology giant rounded out a record year for profits and revenue. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

(AP) -- Asia is now exporting two-thirds of the world's mobile phones, personal computers, digital televisions and other high-tech goods for information and communications, in a significant shift in world trade accentuated by the global financial crisis, the U.N. reported Wednesday.

The new U.N. data shows that China and Hong Kong exported $498 billion in such goods in 2009, more than four times the United States share of $113 billion. Also included in such were cameras, iPads, CD and DVD players and other consumer electronics.

Global exports of information and communication technology, known as ICT - key to developing economies - represented 12 percent of world merchandise traded last year, up about 1 percent from a year earlier, according to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development figures.

"The striking thing is that Asia really has emerged as a very dominant player," said Torbjorn Fredriksson, who heads the ICT analysis section at the U.N. trade organization known as UNCTAD. "And you can also see that within just one year, their share increased by 2.5 percent, which is quite a large share globally, and we link (that) to the financial crisis."

Asia's gain has come mostly at the expense of the U.S., Japan and Europe, he said, with the quick rebound of Asian economies also playing a role.

Trade in ICT goods is increasingly dominated by Asia; seven of the top 10 exporters - led by China and Hong Kong - are Asian.

The next closest is the U.S., which exports almost 11 percent of ICT goods. The U.S., China and Hong Kong are also the biggest importers of ICT goods - partly a reflection of the inter-Asian trade in components.

The latest data support "recent findings that the has led to significant shifts in world trade of ICT goods towards Asia," UNCTAD said.

Most major exporters saw a decrease in ICT goods due the financial crisis, but the decline was sharper in Portugal and Finland, where the drop was more than 50 percent, and in Ireland, where it fell 36 percent. In Czech Republic, France, Germany and Sweden it decreased 20 percent.

China, , the Philippines, Korea and Thailand also notched modest losses.

By contrast, India's exports soared 244 percent and its imports of ICT goods also rose. Exports of those by Romania, Israel and Malaysia also rose sharply, UNCTAD reported.

But imports of ICT goods declined by more than 35 percent in Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Russia and Spain for a mixture of factors that include the financial crisis, Fredriksson said.

UNCTAD says that mobile telephones and other ICT goods were helping blaze the way for new "micro-enterprises" that are mushrooming in developing countries - sometimes creating new livelihoods for the poor.

For example, Kenya has more than 20,000 agents for the M-PESA mobile-based transaction service, Fredriksson said.

Some 1 million people are now involved in India's mobile phone sector, he said. UNCTAD, citing Grameenphone figures, said Bangladesh has an estimated 350,000 "village phone ladies" who run mobile phone booths in remote places so others can call relatives or get health care.

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