Imports of goods by Africa and the Middle East grew 18% in nominal terms last year. Africa spent US$ 248 billion in foreign purchases in 2005, growth of 17% over 2004, and the Middle East purchased US$ 318 billion, 19% more.
Together, the countries of the region consume US$ 566 billion in products made by other nations, according to figures in the World Trade Report, disclosed early this week by the World Trade Organization. (WTO).
The percentage was well above the general growth of nominal global imports, which was 13%. The main reason for the increase in purchases was high oil prices, produced and exported by the region.
"The countries that exported fuel and other products of extractive industries increased their imports substantially," according to the WTO report. Africa and the Middle East presented growth of 32.5% in exports.
Africa had revenues of US$ 296 billion with foreign sales, 29% more than in 2004, and the Middle East, US$ 529 billion, 36% more.
"The expansion in exports favored the growth of imports," explained the secretary general at the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Michel Alaby. According to him, this increase in income generated by oil made the governments of the countries invest in infrastructure and an improvement of quality of life for the population.
According to the vice president at the Brazilian Foreign Trade Association (AEB), José Augusto de Castro, both regions should continue importing great volumes while the price of oil is high. According to Castro, at the same time in which they are harmful to the development of the global economy, high commodity prices favor Brazil.
"These countries that produce oil currently require Brazilian products," stated the vice president at the AEB. Brazil is also less sensitive to international oil price quotations, as the country is almost self-sufficient in the sector.
The increase in commodity prices, however, was one of the factors that did not permit greater growth of global trade in 2005, according to the WTO report. High oil prices mean greater energy costs for countries, due to fuel prices, and this causes inflation.
It is consequentially necessary to increase interest rates, which reduces the level of industrial activity and affects the performance of economies. Although analysts consider the 13% satisfactory for the growth of global trade, it was much lower than the total in 2004, when growth was over 20%.
"The main developed countries that are importers of oil, the European Union (EU), the United States and Japan, registered strong deceleration in the growth of their imports. Chinese imports also grew less than in the same period in the previous year, despite the strength of their economy," according to the WTO report.
EU imports grew 8%, against 20% in the previous year, in the case of the US, growth was 14% in 2005, against 17% in 2004, in Japan, imports grew 14% against 19% in the previous period and in China the growth was 18%, against 36% in 2004.
However, global exports exceeded US$ 10 trillion. "The percentage of growth of exports last year was very good," stated Castro. In the case of the United States, according to him, no growth was expected, or lower growth was expected due to the internal deficit and to the current account deficit that the country has and to the costs it is having with wars.
To most of the countries in South America, global trade was favorable in 2005. The Mercosur led by Brazil presented growth of 20% in exports, according to the WTO. Together, the countries in the bloc exported US$ 163 billion.
The region’s imports grew 18% and reached US$ 113 billion. These figures, both for the Mercosur and the Middle East and Africa, refer only to the trade of products and do not include services.
In spite of high oil prices, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report in which it forecasts a positive panorama for the world economy this year. According to the document, disclosed by the Institute for Studies in aid of Industrial Development (Iedi), the countries that are members of the organization, a total of 30, among them the United States, France and Japan, should present growth of 3.1% in their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2006.
Anba – www.anba.com.br
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