Can decoupling insulate Asian growth?

Decoupling is a matter of degree and type, reports the FT:

Thailand is a good example. Recent economic growth has been powered primarily by exports, about 12.5 per cent of which went directly to the US last year, down from about 20 per cent when the previous US recession struck in 2001.

Yet Thailand is not as insulated as this might suggest. Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput, chief economist at SCB Securities, says Bangkok remains vulnerable to a US slowdown since most of its exports to China – about 9.5 per cent of total shipments, up from 4.4 per cent in 2001 – are components used to make goods bound for the US.

The picture is not black and white and decoupling is not an “either/or phenomenon”, says Paul Sheard, global chief economist at Lehman Brothers. Asia emerged relatively unscathed from the 1991 US recession but was much harder hit by the “tech recession” of 2001. Similarly, this time, depending on the precise nature of any downturn, commodity-rich Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia might fare better than, say, countries specialising in electronics, such as Taiwan or South Korea.

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