Archive for the ‘Trade Statistics’ Category

US trade and aid to DPRK…

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

U.S. exports to North Korea jumped nearly 20-fold in February from a year earlier, a U.S. radio report said Tuesday.

The volume of trade between the two countries reached US$1.2 million in February, compared with $62,000 a year earlier, the Voice of America (VOA) reported, citing data compiled by the U.S. Commerce Department.

The VOA said that humanitarian assistance provided by U.S. private agencies accounted for 95 percent, or $1.13 million, of the total U.S. shipment to North Korea in February.

The rest of the U.S. exports to the North included poultry, footwear and plastic products, the radio report said.

The U.S., however, imported nothing from North Korea during the cited period, it said.

Read the full story here:
U.S. exports to N. Korea jumps nearly 20-fold in Feb
Yonhap
2014-4-8

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DPRK – China trade: What is happening?

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Previous reports indicated that the execution of Jang Song-thaek has to date had little effect on DPRK-China trade. According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (2014-3-12):

Trade between North Korea and China in January has increased roughly 16 percent against the previous year. After the December 2013 purge of Jang Song Thaek it was predicted that trade between the two countries would decrease; however, there is no visible sign of this yet.

According to the Korean Foreign Trade Association’s* data, trade between North Korea and China in February increased from 471 million USD to 546 million USD, up 15.9 percent compared to the previous year.

February also showed an increase in anthracite exports, North Korea’s main export to China, rising 21.3 percent to 102 million USD. Iron ore exports also showed a slight increase of 35 million USD compared to last year.

Chinese exports to North Korea, including leading export commodities such as cellular phones and other wireless radio/communication devices, increased 28 percent compared to January of last year, totaling 14.5 million USD. In February, goods exported through China to North Korea increased by 10.2 million USD, a 38.6 percent increase compared to January of last year.

The trade gains in this report are annual for the most part…comparing 2013 data with 2014 data. This reveals little about the change in trade volume from month to month.

Now a story in Yonhap offers January and February 2014 data, and journalists have reached the opposite conclusion. Jang’s execution has played a role in DPRK-China trade. According to the article:

“In January and February this year, North Korea significantly stepped up checks on its coal exports to China,” a source in Beijing said on the condition of anonymity.

“Such reinforced checks appear to be related to the execution of Jang Song-thaek,” the source said.

According to the latest data by the Korea International Trade Association* in Seoul, North Korea’s exports of coal to China in February fell 26 percent from a month ago to 920,000 tons. The North’s exports of iron ore to China also fell 23 percent in February from a month earlier to 197,000 tons.

The North’s total trade with China in February plunged 46 percent from a month earlier to US$255 million, the data showed.

In Dandong, the Chinese border city with North Korea where about 80 percent of bilateral trade is conducted, the flow of goods in and out of North Korea appears to be affected by the execution of Jang.

“In previous years, the North Korean authorities had usually set their annual targets for exports and imports, and given quotas to trading firms,” said another source in Dandong who is doing businesses with North Korea. “But, no quota has been given yet this year.

“Obviously, the mood is different than previous years,” the source said.

No progress has been made on special economic zones, including Hwanggumphyong and Wihwa, set up by the North on the border with China, according to the source.

“Under the current circumstances, Chinese investors will not invest in the North’s special economic zones,” the source said.

Does this mean anything?  Well, we don’t know enough about these numbers, or the cause for such dramatic change in trade patterns, so we will need to continue to watch the data.  Even before the February numbers came out, Scott Snyder reminded us that DPRK-China trade has taken a dip between January and February for each of the last three years!

Snyder-DPRK-China-Trade-2011-2013

Then there are the caveats: 1. This only counts legitimate trade (no illicit, secret, or military trade) 2. No aid 3. No official or unofficial transfers 4. No capital flows.

*Presumably the Korean Foreign Trade Association and the Korea International Trade Association are the same thing.

Read the full Yonhap story here:
N. Korea’s trade with China shaken after Jang’s execution
Yonhap
2014-4-4

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On the business of exporting coal…

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Taean-Port

 Pictured above (Google Earth): The coal-covered Taean Port on the Taedong River

Who knew that Rodong Sinmun was involved in the coal export business?

According to the Daily NK:

Gwangbokseongdae Co. [광복성대?], a hard currency-earning arm of the operator of the Party daily Rodong Sinmun, recently resumed coal exports through the West Sea port of Nampo, Daily NK has learned. Exports had been halted upon the orders of the Chosun Workers’ Party in October 2013.

The Kim regime is believed to have resumed exports to open up additional flows of hard currency for accounts earmarked for regime maintenance. Coal is one of North Korea’s biggest export industries, with almost all the coal produced in the country sent to China (though a percentage of it is coked and returned for use in North Korean power stations).

A source from South Pyongan Province reported the story to Daily NK on the 3rd, explaining that “Gwangboksongdae Co. has started exporting coal again; it was originally stopped by the Party last October.”

The source then went on to add, “So as to match the timing of [incoming] vessels and increase export volumes, the company is leasing its trucks to people.”

“It costs US$350 per day to lease the trucks. They travel from storage yards [owned by people who lease land from farms and use it for the storage and sale of coal] in mining areas of South Pyongan Province to Daean Port in Nampo. Vessels start coming in March, so leased trucks are again transporting coal for export.”

Companies exporting coal to China must have an export trade license from the North Korean authorities. Then they can use planned exports to China as security against the cost of leasing the trucks. From the point of view of the company, subcontracting in this manner, a practice that began in the mid-2000s, makes more sense than employing drivers directly.

There are many conditions attached to truck rental from Gwangboksongdae Co., however. According to the source, not only must lessees prove that they have $3000 with which to purchase coal; they must also have ten years of trucking experience and, of course, good connections in the Central Party.

But it is worth it. “The original price of a ton of coal is roughly $12,” he said. “This can then be sold at the storage yards in Nampo and Taean Port for $32, giving the driver a clear profit of $20 on each ton. If he carries an average load of 30t, he will earn $540. If we factor in the lease fee of $350 and cost of fuel, there is around $100 left per load.”

“Normally, drivers make around three trips per week,” he went on. “But truck repair costs are born by the lessee. If a vehicle is damaged, the lessee ends up with a significant burden as they can be held liable for compensation.”

According to trade statistics compiled by the Korean International Trade Association (KITA) in January 2014, North Korea exported 16.5 million tons of anthracite to China in 2013. This total, which marked a year-on-year increase of 39.7%, brought in approximately US$ 1.373bn, a 15.5% increase over 2012.

Read the full story here:
Trucks for Rent as Coal Exports Soar
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-4-3

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Russia and DPRK discuss economic opportunities

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

What are the opportunities? Rason port, Iron Silk Road (Rail), Kaesong Industrial Complex, gas pipeline.

According to RIA Novosti:

Russia and North Korea have signed a new protocol to transition to using the ruble for payments between the two countries as part of an effort to boost annual bilateral trade to $1 billion by 2020, Russia’s Far East Development Ministry said Friday.

The announcement came as Russian officials have expressed a desire to explore new markets for the country’s businesses, following the introduction of sanctions by the West in reaction to Moscow’s stance over Crimea. Russian leaders have simultaneously reassured international investors the country remains open for business, and there are no plans to restrict international commerce.

The protocol announced Friday came following a visit of a Russian delegation to the Asian country for a meeting of a standing bilateral commission, timed to mark the 65th anniversary of a cooperation agreement between the Soviet Union and North Korea.

The parties agreed to move towards settling payments in rubles as well as adopting further measures to boost bilateral trade, including easing visa procedures and providing for Russian access to proposed special economic zones in the country, the ministry’s statement said.

The ministry reaffirmed the countries’ mutual interest in joint projects with South Korea, including international connections for railways [Iron Silk Road], gas pipelines and power lines.

The Russian delegation also proposed the entry of Russian businesses into the Kaesong Industrial Park, a special economic zone in North Korea just north of Seoul where South Korean companies are allowed to employ northern workers.

The two sides identified areas for further cooperation, including a transshipment complex at the port of Rason and technical cooperation for the modernization of North Korea’s mining sector, automobile industry and electric power plants.

According to the statement, during the talks Russian Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka emphasized that achieving such goals would only be possible if stability is maintained on the Korean peninsula.

The next meeting of the bilateral commission is scheduled for June in Russia’s far eastern Vladivostok.

Here is what Yonhap reports:

North Korea and Russia have agreed to boost economic ties by pushing for trilateral projects involving South Korea, including a plan to support Russian companies’ entry into an inter-Korean industrial complex, a media report said Saturday.

The agreement between the two was made earlier this week when Russia’s Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka visited the North for a five-day run until Friday to explore ways to boost bilateral economic cooperation, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

“The Russian delegation proposed the entry of Russian businesses into the Kaesong Industrial Park, a special economic zone in North Korea just north of Seoul where South Korean companies are allowed to employ northern workers,” the RIA Novosti reported, citing the ministry.

Officials of Seoul’s unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, welcomed the agreement between the North and Russia, while stressing the importance of Russia’s prior consultation with the South.

“Russian companies’ making inroads into the Kaesong park is desirable in terms of the internationalization of the complex … It would also prevent the North from unilaterally reversing its agreement with Seoul over the Kaeesong operation,” the ministry official said, requesting anonymity.

Internationalization of the enclave, a symbol of inter-Korean detente, is one of the key topics for inter-Korean meetings aimed at ensuring its normal operations and further invigorating the complex. The Kaesong park resumed operations in September, more than five months after the North unilaterally closed it in anger over Seoul-Washington joint military exercises.

“But it is crucial for Russia to discuss the matter with our side first as it is basically operated by the South Korean authorities,” he added.

A handful of companies from China, Australia and Germany have so far expressed interests in making an investment in the Kaesong complex, prompting the Seoul government to review holding joint presentation sessions with the North to lure investors from overseas, according to another ministry official.

Here is additional information from Yonhap on recent shipments from Russia to the DPRK:

Russia exported US$21.16 million’s worth of jib cranes, machinery used mostly for cargo handling at ports, to North Korea last year, accounting for nearly 22 percent of its total exports to the North, according to the report by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). The amount surpasses that of Russia’s traditional export goods such as coal, petroleum and bituminous oil.

There were no records of the machines being exported to North Korea the year before, with the 2011 amount standing at $139,000.

North Korea and Russia maintain economic relations that include a project that would make North Korea’s northeastern port city of Rajin a logistics hub by connecting it to Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway. North Korea is said to have agreed to a long-term lease of the No. 3 dock at Rajin port to Russia and that it is modernizing facilities there. The cranes may be for such modernization efforts, the KOTRA report said.

Also noteworthy is Russia’s exports of ambulances to the North, amounting to approximately 10.1 billion won ($9.45 million), the fourth largest in terms of value. Ambulances are a relatively new product on the trade list.

KCNA’s reporting of the meeting was much more muted:

DPRK Premier Meets Minister of Development of Far East of Russia

Pyongyang, March 26 (KCNA) — Pak Pong Ju, premier of the DPRK Cabinet, met Alexandr Galushka, minister of the Development of Far East of Russia who is chairman of the Russian side to the Inter-governmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology between the DPRK and Russia, and his party.

He had a friendly talk with them who paid a courtesy call on him at the Mansudae Assembly Hall on Wednesday.

Minutes of Talks between Governments of DPRK, Russia Signed

Pyongyang, March 26 (KCNA) — Minutes of talks on cooperation in trade, economy, science and technology between the governments of the DPRK and Russia were signed here Wednesday.

Present at the signing ceremony were Ri Ryong Nam, minister of Foreign Trade who is chairman of the DPRK side to the Inter-governmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology between the DPRK and Russia, and officials concerned, Alexandr Galushka, minister for the Development of Far East who is chairman of the Russian side to the Inter-governmental Committee, and his party and Alexandr Timonin, Russian ambassador to the DPRK.

Ri Ryong Nam and Alexandr Galushka signed the minutes of the talks.

Read the full story here:
Russia, North Korea Agree to Settle Payments in Rubles in Trade Pact
RIA Novosti
2014-3-28

N. Korea, Russia to discuss supporting Moscow firms’ advance into Kaesong park
Yonhap
2014-3-29

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Fertilizer imports up to Feb 2014

Friday, March 28th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The North brought in 13,769 tons of Chinese fertilizer in February, a whopping 13 times more than some 1,064 tons from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Korean Rural Economic Institute (KREI).

In the first two months of the year, Pyongyang imported 48,882 tons of Chinese fertilizer, which is far higher than 1,066 tons from the same period a year earlier, the data showed.

“The 2013 figure is unprecedented, as the North used to buy a limited amount in the winter season. It seems to be very proactive in securing fertilizer long ahead of its usual schedule, and that indicates farm output improvement is its top priority,” said KREI researcher Kwon Tae-jin.

In his New Year’s message, the North’s young leader Kim Jong-un stressed boosting food production, saying all efforts “should go for agriculture … in order to build a strong economy and to improve the people’s livelihoods.”

Last year, Pyongyang bought a total of 207,334 tons of fertilizer from China, down by 18 percent from the previous year.

Additional Information:

1. The United Nations and South Korean government have reported that domestic gain production is up in 2013.

2. The DPRK has also increased food imports from China in 2013.

3. Food aid from UN was down in 2013.

4. Food prices fell in last year. DPRK won appreciated in last year.

5. Kim Jong-un’s speech to subworkteam leaders.

6. Previous posts on ‘foood’.

7. Scott Snyder on DPRK-China trade.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s fertilizer imports from China soar in Feb.
Yonhap
2014-3-28

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Hyundai Research Institute: DPRK economic report for 2013

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The North’s per-capita GDP for last year is estimated at US$854, up $39 from a year earlier, according to the report released by the Hyundai Research Institute (HRI), a South Korean private think tank.

The North’s 2013 per-capita GDP amounts to a mere 3.6 percent of South Korea’s per-capita GDP of $23,838 for the same year, it said

North Korea’s grain production improved on the back of favorable weather conditions, while the country also expanded its investment in various industrial sectors, the report said.

The communist state’s grain production is estimated to have grown some 5 percent last year from a year earlier. The country saw an 8.5 percent on-year rise and 10 percent gain in its grain production, respectively, in 2011 and 2012.

Also, the reclusive nation increased its budget spending for railroads, metal and power generation sectors, which contributed in boosting its economy, the report showed.

Trade between North Korea and its strongest ally China jumped 10.4 percent on-year to reach $6.5 billion last year, while inter-Korean trade sank 42 percent to $1.1 billion due to a five-month halt of an jointly run industrial park.

The 2013 inter-Korean trade figure is the lowest since 2005 when the comparable figure was $1.06 billion.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex was shut down in early April 2013 after the North unilaterally pulled out all of its workers at 123 South Korean firms. It reopened in September after Pyongyang agreed not to repeat such a suspension.

Assistance from the international community to the North also dropped 47 percent on-year to reach $63.1 million last year, the report said.

Though the story does not cite the article from which the data is drawn, you can download the original report by the Hyundai Research Institute here (PDF in Korean).

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s per-capita GDP grows 4.8 pct in 2013: report
Yonhap
2014-3-16

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Sino-DPRK trade booms in January 2014

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-3-12

North Korea has been actively working to procure large quantities of fertilizer since the beginning of 2014 in an effort to increase production in the agricultural sector. According to statistics provided by the Korea Rural Economic Institute, North Korea imported 35,113 tons of Chinese fertilizer in January 2014.

In January and February of recent past years, North Korea imported small, insignificant amounts of Chinese fertilizer — for example, a mere two tons in January 2013. This year’s sudden increase comes as an unexpected surprise. January imports of Chinese fertilizer doubled that of imports procured in December 2013, increasing by 17,416 tons. This comes in spite of the fact that total imports of Chinese fertilizer decreased 18 percent from 252,789 tons in 2012 to 207,334 tons in 2013.

In the past, the North Korean pattern has been to import Chinese fertilizer from March and peak during the April-to-July farming season. Import figures show that North Korea has begun to procure its fertilizer earlier than usual, beginning in January and February. This vigorous importing of fertilizer could be directly connected to North Korea’s efforts to increase agricultural production to solve the nation’s chronic food shortages.

In his 2014 New Year’s speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to rebuild the country’s moribund economy, emphasizing the agricultural sector in this endeavor. In his letter to last month’s national conference of subworkteam leaders, he also emphasized the need to boost agricultural production in order to attain self-sufficiency.

Subsequently, it is expected that North Korea will actively scale up imports of Chinese fertilizer again this year in correlation with Chinese export tariff cuts.

Trade between North Korea and China in January has increased roughly 16 percent against the previous year. After the December 2013 purge of Jang Song Thaek it was predicted that trade between the two countries would decrease; however, there is no visible sign of this yet.

According to the Korean Foreign Trade Association’s data, trade between North Korea and China in February increased from 471 million USD to 546 million USD, up 15.9 percent compared to the previous year.

February also showed an increase in anthracite exports, North Korea’s main export to China, rising 21.3 percent to 102 million USD. Iron ore exports also showed a slight increase of 35 million USD compared to last year.

Chinese exports to North Korea, including leading export commodities such as cellular phones and other wireless radio/communication devices, increased 28 percent compared to January of last year, totaling 14.5 million USD. In February, goods exported through China to North Korea increased by 10.2 million USD, a 38.6 percent increase compared to January of last year.

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Zimbabwe signs $5m contracts with DPRK for statue and museum

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

According to the Christian Science Monitor:

The cost of Bona Mugabe’s wedding on March 1, attended by the heads of state of South Africa, Zambia, and Equatorial Guinea at Mugabe’s private home in Harare’s plush Borrowdale suburb, cost $5 million.

Just after the wedding, plans leaked out that Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) government clandestinely signed North Korea, one of its old friends, to build two statues of Mugabe at an estimated cost of $5 million.

The statues were commissioned by the minister of local government, Ignatius Chombo.

One is a nearly 30-foot high bronze image worth $3.5 million to be placed in Harare; the other is a $1.5 million version to be placed in a $3.8 million museum to be built in Mugabe’s rural Zvimba home, in Mashonaland West. Building statues of leaders is something North Korea has considerable experience doing.

Read more about the story at Bloomberg and Bulawayo 24.

I have documented many of North Korea’s Africa projects on this web page.  See here.

Read the full story here:
Mugabe splashes $5m on N. Korea statues
Christian Science Monitor
Mxosili Ncube
2014-3-12

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January 2014 DPRK oil imports from China

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Zero!

According to Yonhap:

North Korea did not import any crude oil from China in January, marking the first absence of monthly deliveries from China in five months, a Seoul government report showed Monday.

It was not immediately clear whether the January absence of crude shipments to North Korea from China was linked to Beijing’s growing frustration with Pyongyang over its nuclear program, but it followed the execution of the once-powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last December.

Last year, monthly shipments of crude oil from China to North Korea were absent in the months of February, June and July. However, annual shipments of crude oil to North Korea from China rose 11.2 percent on-year to 578,000 tons in 2013.

Read the full story here:
No crude import from China to N. Korea in Jan.: report
Yonhap
2014-3-10

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DPRK fertilizer imports (2013 – Jan 2014)

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s fertilizer imports from China skyrocketed in January from a year earlier, data showed Tuesday, pointing to Pyongyang’s efforts to increase agricultural output.

The North brought in 35,113 tons of Chinese fertilizer in January, a huge increase from 2 tons from a year earlier, according to the data by the Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI).

Such an amount is unprecedented for January, as the impoverished communist country used to buy a limited amount of fertilizer in winter, according to KREI experts.

The January figure is also two times bigger than the 17,416 tons for December, according to the data.

“Different from its previous pattern of buying fertilizer in spring, North Korea seems to be taking a very proactive move to secure fertilizer a long time ahead of its usual schedule. This means that the North is putting a priority on improving its farm output,” said KREI researcher Kwon Tae-jin.

It is in line with its leader Kim Jong-un’s policy goal of boosting food production, experts said.

In his New Year’s message, the young leader said all efforts “should go for agriculture … in order to build a strong economy and to improve the people’s livelihoods.”

Last year, Pyongyang bought a total of 207,334 tons of fertilizers from China, down by 18 percent from the previous year.

“This year, the trend is expected to be reversed given the January data and the fact that China has lowered duties,” Kwon added.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s fertilizer imports from China soar in Jan.
Yonhap
2014-3-4

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