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US-Asean agri-food trade: Who is faring better?

/ 12:01 AM January 05, 2015

The United States is one of the largest trade partners of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In agri-food products, the total two-way trade in 2013 was $29 billion: $10.2 billion of US exports and $18.8 billion of US imports, or a US trade deficit of $8.6 billion.

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This article benchmarks the trade performance of six Asean countries, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—in terms of growth in exports and trade balances between 2003 and 2013.

It also identifies the major US exports and imports.

FEATURED STORIES

Between 2003 and 2013, US exports to Asean-6 grew 3.8 times from $2.7 billion to $10.2 billion while its imports expanded 2.6 times from $7.2 billion to $18.8 billion.

Thus, the United States posted a trade deficit of $8.6 billion.

Who then are the Asean winners and losers? What are their main US exports and imports?

Indonesia. The United States exported $2.6 billion worth of goods to Indonesia in 2013, up from $0.7 billion in 2003. By contrast, it imported $5.4 billion in 2013 from only $1.9 billion in 2003.

The US had a trade deficit of about $2.8 billion in 2013, up from $1.2 billion in 2003.

Main Exports: milk and cream, wheat, soya beans, starch residues, animal feeds preparations

Main Imports: natural rubber and tire, frozen shrimps, coffee beans, palm oil, pepper, coconut oil, prepared crabs, prepared shrimps and cocoa butter

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Malaysia. The United States exported $1 billion worth of products in 2013, up from $0.4 billion in 2003.

By contrast, imports reached $2.9 billion in 2003 from almost $1 billion in 2003.

The United States had a trade deficit with Malaysia of $0.9 billion in 2013 as compared to $0.6 billion in 2003.

Main Exports: soybeans, milk and cream, food preparations, fruits and nuts, residues from starch manufacturing

Main Imports: palm oil and fractions, coconut oil and fractions, articles of rubber, cocoa butter and powder, frozen shrimps

Philippines. In 2013, US exports to the Philippines amounted to $2.6 billion, higher than the $0.6 billion in 2003. Meanwhile, US imports reached $1.5 billion in 2013 from $0.8 billion in 2003. The US posted a trade surplus $1.1 billion in 2013 as against a $0.2-billion deficit in 2003.

Main Exports: wheat, soybean meal, milk and cream, poultry meat, pork and offal, alcoholic beverages, fruits

Main Imports: coconut oil, preserved fruits and juices, frozen fish, prepared crabs and prepared tuna.

Singapore. US shipments to Singapore, a non-agricultural country, moved up to $0.8 billion in 2013 from $0.4 billion in 2003. Meanwhile, US imports were down to only $0.1 billion from $0.2 billion during the same period. The US posted a trade surplus of $0.8 billion in 2013 as against $0.2 billion in 2003.

Main Exports: meat and offal, food preparations, articles of rubber, fruits, alcoholic beverages

Main Imports: biscuits and bread, live fish, cocoa butter and powder.

Thailand. US exports to Thailand increased to $1.3 billion in 2013 from $0.5 billion in 2003. US imports likewise went up to $5.8 billion in 2013 from $2.3 billion in 2003. The US posted a huge trade deficit of $4.5 billion in 2013, up from $1.8 billion in 2003. Thailand has the most diversified supplies to the US.

Main Exports: soybeans, wheat, brewing waste, animal feed preparations, fruits, milk and cream, frozen fish.

Main Imports: rubber, tires, articles of rubber, prepared tuna, prepared shrimp, frozen shrimp, preserved fruits, jasmine rice, pet food, food preparations, condiments and sauces, non-alcoholic beverages, pasta, biscuits, fruits and nuts.

Vietnam. US exports reached $1.8 billion in 2013, up from less than $0.1 billion in 2003. Similarly, its imports rose to $3.1 billion from $1 billion during the same period. The US posted a trade deficit of $1.3 billion in 2013 compared to $1 billion in 2003.

Main Exports: soybeans, nuts, brewer waste, soybean meal, milk and cream, peanuts

Main Imports: frozen shrimp, frozen catfish, coffee beans, pepper, cashew nuts,   prepared shrimps, canned tuna, prepared crabs, rubber and tires.

Comparisons

  • The Philippines ranks first as a US market closely followed by Indonesia. The country has diversified exports but at relatively smaller values than Asean peers.
  • Thailand and Indonesia are the largest US suppliers, followed by Vietnam and Malaysia. The Philippines is a far fifth.
  • Thailand has the widest variety of exports, true to its name as “kitchen of the world.” This is followed by Vietnam and Indonesia.
  • The US has trade deficits with Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. It has trade surpluses with the Philippines and Singapore. The trade surplus with Singapore is to be expected as it is a small island with little agriculture.

Benchmarking

The Philippines faces challenges in the US market. The level of US imports is far lower than its Asean peers, except for Singapore, a non-agricultural country. While it is third in vegetable oils, it is behind in rubber products, fresh seafood (shrimp and fish), processed seafood, coffee and many others.

Competitiveness in the global market means principally adequate supply of raw materials to package or process, and secondarily, logistics. This cuts across many industries.

Much needs to be done if the country can expand its agri-food exports, promote off-farm and non-farm jobs, and create a vibrant agro-industry.

More than ever, this country needs more resolve and problem solvers.

(The author is vice chair of the MAP Agribusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and the executive director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific. Feedback at <[email protected]> and < [email protected]>. For previous articles, please visit <map.org.ph>)

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