Responses to the Crisis: Constraints to a Rapid Trade Adjustment in East Asia´s Electronics Industry

Dieter Ernst

Research output: Working paperResearch

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It has been argued that “… trade adjustment in East Asia…will be rapid and sizable, lifting aggregate growth in these economies even as the domestic non-tradable sectors continue to suffer a decline (as in Mexico)” (World Bank, 1998, p.5). Much hope has been pinned on the electronics industry to come through with rapid growth through expanding exports. Two arguments appear to bolster such an expectation: the severity of the region´s currency depreciations has lowered the cost of much of its electronics supply base relative to its competitors; and the electronics industry´s proven track record as an engine of export-led growth shows that it can be quickly started and accelerated in response to changes in the market.
However, no export boom in electronics has (as yet) materialized. The paper analyzes what explains this puzzle. We first introduce a taxonomy of East Asia´s electronics firms and market segments to distinguish different capacities to ride out the crisis. We then discuss three barriers to an East Asian export boom in electronics: i) supply-side constraints that result from limited access to trade finance, and from the cost-increasing impact of local currency depreciations in highly import-dependent countries; ii) demand-related constraints, resulting from deteriorating growth perspectives in East Asia´s electronics export markets; and iii) deflationary pricing pressures, resulting from a narrow specialization in high-tech commodities that are characterized by periodic surplus capacity and price wars. Combined, these barriers have produced a vicious circle: once exports increase, net volume gains are likely to be offset by pricing losses.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherDRUID - Danish Research Unit for Industrial Dynamics
Number of pages36
ISBN (Print)8778730716
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes
SeriesDRUID Working Paper

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