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World trade growth slid to 5.5% in 2007--WTO

World trade growth slid to 5.5% last year from 8.5% in 2006 and may grow even more slowly in 2008 — at about 4.5% — as sharp economic deceleration in key developed countries is only partly offset by continuing strong growth in emerging economies, according to World Trade Organization (www.wto.org) economists. The economists cautioned that assessment of 2007 trade figures and forecasts has been unusually difficult due to sharp market fluctuations, while financial market turbulence has clouded world trade prospects for 2008.

Asia’s merchandise exports continued to expand slightly more than world exports and also slightly more than the region’s imports, further widening the region’s merchandise trade surplus despite a stronger increase in import prices than in export prices. In 2007, the trade performance of Asian economies again showed major differences. While China, India and Viet Nam recorded export and import growth rates above 20%, Japan and the four Asian newly industrialized economies (NIEs — Hong Kong China, Rep. of Korea, Singapore and Chinese Taipei) expanded their trade by about 10%. China further advanced its pre-eminence among Asian traders in 2007. For the first time its trade (exports plus imports) exceeded the combined trade of Japan and the Republic of Korea, the second and third largest merchandise traders in Asia.

Hong Kong’s port, the third busiest in the world, handled some 5.8mn TEU in the first quarter of 2008, a 7.5% increase over the previous year. In March, the port’s container terminals handled 1.5mn TEU, while the overall port saw a throughput of 2.05mn TEUs in March.

Across the boundary, the Shenzhen ports handled 4.9mn TEU in the first quarter of 2008, 8.5% more than the previous year. In March, some 1.7mn TEU passed through the Shenzhen ports, 19.6% more than in March 2007.