General region overview
Countries in East Asia have experienced varying fortunes in their dealings with COVID-19, leading to diverse paths for government intervention and flow on effects for their economies.
While the majority of the eight countries have opened up sectors of their economies with special distancing and hygiene requirements, there is some trepidation around the stability of this new “normalcy”, with the potential for third and further waves of community spread to cause new rounds of movement restrictions, lockdowns, and economic loss.
However, there is cautious optimism that Asia is well placed to recover from the pandemic, having learned valuable lessons from previous respiratory illness scares and financial shocks. The region’s generally well established ecommerce channels have also helped ease transition away from in-person shopping and dining.
Despite these positive indications for the future, significant damage has already occurred, and the effects are likely to linger to a different extent for each country and each industry. New economic stimulus packages have been introduced in every East Asian country, including packages for large business, small and medium enterprise, and direct universal payment for citizens. The economic situation remains fluid for nearly every sector.
Opportunities have become apparent for those willing to work with in-market partners and adapt. Many Asian companies are open to virtual meetings where previously only face-to-face interactions, particularly for first introductions, would suffice. There are new ways of working that may bring partnerships within reach.
One of the greatest obstacles for New Zealand goods exporters has been the availability of cargo space. Sea freight is now back to normal capacity, and as flight capacity grows month by month, pricing and availability should become more accessible, although are not likely to return to pre-COVID levels before the end of the year.