Over the past two decades Asian exports have grown dramatically in volume and sophistication. Once thought of as suppliers of cheap manufactures, the economies of the Asian region, one by one, have elevated their technical capabilities becoming, in the process, suppliers of some of the most advanced products available anywhere. In the United States, arguably the single most important and demanding market in the world, the region's successes are obvious and varied, reaching across a full spectrum of goods and services. (See figure 13 and text table 5.) Asian products enjoy market acceptance in fundamental industries such as steel and electronics and in myriad products that incorporate outputs of these industries including motor vehicles, semiconductors, and VCRs.
All Manufactured Products
In the U.S. market, Asian economies registered sales of manufactured goods averaging $180 billion annually during a recent 3-year period (1989-91) and maintained an average trade balance with the United States of nearly $78 billion. (See figure 14 and appendix table 19.) Merchandise imports from Asia represent approximately 7 percent of total U.S. imports.
Japan accounts for over half of the region's merchandise sales here, and the four NIEs collectively account for about one-third. While Japan and the NIEs showed flat or slightly declining sales during the 1989-91 period, China and Malaysia both increased their U.S. sales of manufactures (by 58 and 29 percent, respectively).
China has made tremendous gains in its ability to produce goods that meet international standards. During 1989-91, China's exports to the United States exceeded those of the other three EAEs combined as well as those of two of the Asian NIEs (Hong Kong and Singapore). And, in 1991, U.S. imports from China were greater than from South Korea. Footwear, clothing, and toys are among the leading products imported from China. (See USITC 1992.)
The market competitiveness of the region's technological advances when embodied in new products and processes provides an important evaluation of the economic productivity of a nation's science and technology system. The Asian region has become an important supplier of high-tech products to the United States - the source of more than half of all such products purchased from abroad. Such success in selling high-tech products to a demanding market such as the United States indicates a highly productive science and technology system.
Asian sales of high-tech products (merchandise that incorporates advanced technologies) to the United States averaged nearly $34 billion annually, and exceeded Asian purchases of like-classified products from the United States each year between 1989 and 1991. (See figure 14 and appendix table 14.) Computers, telecommunication equipment, and electronics account for 80 percent of the region's high-tech sales in the United States and approximately 95 percent of the NIEs' high-tech sales. (See text table 6 and appendix table 14.)
The fastest growing product area for the region_and also for Japan over this period was optoelectronic products. Japan's biotech products, although a very small share of Japan's technology sales in the United States, also found an increasingly receptive U.S. market. (See figure 15.) Among the other Asian economies, the technology products that experienced the most growth in U.S. sales varied. Two of the NIEs-Singapore and Taiwan-showed high U.S. sales growth in advanced materials products. Aerospace was a key growth technology area for two EAEs (India and Malaysia) as well as for South Korea. For China and Indonesia, growth in U.S. sales of computers and telecommunication products led all other technology product areas, while for Hong Kong, electronics experienced the fastest growing sales in the United States over the period.