Year-on-year, exports shrank 8.2 percent to USD 47.11 billion in March, following an upwardly revised 11.4 percent fall in February which was the steepest decline in three years, while markets expected a 8.7 percent drop. The decrease in last month’s exports was mostly due to combined effects of external risks and cyclical factors, including slowing global economy, trade dispute between US and China and growing protectionism. Sales of memory chips contracted 16.6 percent, as global demand for smartphone slowed on low seasonal demand. Also, exports dropped for petrochemicals (-10.7 percent), amid increased supply from the US. In contrast, sales increased for ships (5.4 percent), namely drill ships and liquefied natural gas carriers; plastic (3.6 percent); and biotechnology products (13 percent), mostly due to pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Exports to China, South Korea's top trading partner, shrank 15.5 pct, and to Japan declined 12.8 pct, due to declining demand of semiconductors and steel. By contrast, exports to the US grew 4 pct, mainly driven by automobile, machinery and petrochemical products.
Imports declined by 6.7 percent to USD 41.89 billion
, worse than market estimates of a 4.9 percent fall and after a 12.6 percent decline in a month earlier.
Considering the first three months of 2019, the trade surplus narrowed to USD 9.31 billion from USD 12.63 billion in the corresponding period the prior year.