La tormenta llegó a Asia

BERKELEY – A medida que 2011 se acerca a su final, hay cada vez más señales que indican que Asia está quedando atrapada en la desaceleración global, lo que supone un duro golpe para las esperanzas de que las economías de la región se “desacoplen” de la prolongada recesión europea y de la deslucida recuperación de los Estados Unidos. El crecimiento de las exportaciones chinas comienza a decaer, debido a las vacilaciones de la demanda de Europa, que ya es el principal mercado extranjero de China (lugar antes ocupado por los Estados Unidos). De hecho, la actividad fabril china está reduciéndose por primera vez en casi tres años. Las repercusiones ya se hacen notar en otras economías asiáticas emergentes que dependen tanto de las exportaciones destinadas a los fabricantes chinos como de las dirigidas a Estados Unidos y Europa.

En 2008, cuando las exportaciones equivalían a cerca del 45% del PIB panasiático (sin contar a Japón), no hubo desacople, y todos los países emergentes de la región experimentaron una abrupta caída del crecimiento a la par del brusco descenso del comercio internacional. En la actualidad tampoco es probable que se produzca un desacople, porque la proporción que representan las exportaciones dentro del PIB de la región sigue siendo más o menos la misma, y cerca del 50% de esas exportaciones aún van con destino a los países desarrollados.

Por eso, la idea de un desacople parece una quimera. Incluso si se resuelve la crisis del euro, en Europa habrá medidas de austeridad que, sumadas a un crecimiento anémico en los Estados Unidos (en el mejor de los casos), supondrán una desaceleración para el continente asiático, dependiente de las exportaciones. Pero los países de Asia todavía pueden crecer mucho más rápido que el Occidente desarrollado, si ante un estancamiento prolongado responden con medidas para reequilibrar sus economías de modo tal que el crecimiento dependa más de la demanda interna, especialmente del consumo de los hogares. La buena noticia es que estas economías tienen suficiente margen para buscar un nuevo equilibrio, así como flexibilidad en materia de políticas para alcanzarlo.

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