Japan's exports fell 46% in January, after a 35% fall in December. Exports to the US fell 53%, and to China fell 45%. This makes it likely that Japan's economy will shrink further, after the 3.3% decline in 2008. It could soon become the first G-7 economy to fall into depression - defined as a 10% fall in GDP.
Asia's economy has become heavily export-dependent in recent years. The chart above, from today's Financial Times, illustrates this by individual country. This dependence will make it very hard for most Asian countries to maintain domestic GDP growth, if their export sales to N America and W Europe are falling rapidly.
The implications for chemical demand are worrying. Asia's exports of manufactured goods to the West have been the driving force for chemical growth in recent years. Now, the trend is reversing rapidly. Japan's export fall included a 52% decline in car parts, for example - a key demand sector for many chemical producers.