GENEVA — Growth in emerging Asia-Pacific economies is forecast to slow to 6.5 percent in 2012, down from 7 percent last year, partly due to a decline in demand for the region’s exports in rich nations, a United Nations report said.
“Despite the slowdown, Asia and the Pacific will continue to be the fastest growing region globally and an anchor of stability in the world economy,” said Noeleen Heyzer, executive secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, or Escap.
Economists at Bangkok-based Escap estimate China to grow by 8.6 percent, a deceleration from the 9.2 percent rate of 2011, and neighboring India to expand by 7.5 percent, up from 6.9 percent last year.
However, both China and India could be adversely affected by the “uncertain global situation through volatile financial flows,” cautions the report, “Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2012.”
“Pressures on growth for the two economies are likely to continue due to lingering inflation, with the global situation affecting the important export sector of China and foreign financing for Indian enterprises,” it said.
Within hours of the report’s release Thursday, economists were surprised by a sharp jump in China’s trade surplus. In year-over-year comparisons, the nation’s imports rose just 0.3 percent last month while exports were up 4.9 percent. The March figures were 5.3 and 8.9 percent, respectively.
Inflation is expected to moderate in both of the world’s biggest emerging economies, easing in China to 4 percent from 5.4 percent in 2011, and in India to average 6.5 percent, down from 8.4 percent last year.
Two downside risks to the growth outlook, the report noted, are the debt crisis in the euro zone and a surge in world oil prices.
A disorderly sovereign debt default in Europe, or the breakup of the euro common currency area, the report cautioned, “would result in a renewed global financial crisis.”
Such a worst-case scenario, Escap estimated, would shave growth for the region by more than 1 percent and cut Asia-Pacific merchandise exports by about $390 billion.
For other economies in the region with major textile and apparel exporting sectors, the growth prospects vary widely.
Bangladesh is expected to grow 6.6 percent, Cambodia 6.7 percent, Pakistan 4 percent, Sri Lanka 7.2 percent and Vietnam 5.8 percent.
In 2011, Cambodia, where apparel accounts for about 80 percent of export revenues, “benefited from expanded quotas in European markets,” it said.
Moreover, in Vietnam, inflation in 2012 is forecast to fall to 9.8 percent, sharply down from last year’s rate of 18.7 percent.