For the first time since 1981, the developing countries last year sold more than they bought, the International Monetary Fund reported Sunday.
Exports by the 62 developing countries watched by the IMF reached $521.2 billion, against imports of $510.3 billion, giving a trade surplus of $10.9 billion. In 1983, imports totaled $516.2 billion and exports only $499 billion for a deficit of $17.2 billion.
A trade surplus eases the debt problems of the poor countries because they are in better shape to keep up payments on their foreign debts. If the trend should continue, there also would be more money available to buy the foreign goods needed by poor countries.
That would help the United States and other industrial countries that have lost sales and jobs because the poor countries have been spending so much to keep up with their debts and could not afford to import as much as they would have liked.
Imports Declined Again
The fund's biweekly publication, IMF Memorandum, said the poor countries had strongly increased their exports for the first time in three years while continuing to cut their buying. Imports by the poor countries declined for the third year in a row, but the rate of the decline slowed, the IMF said.
Asia showed the biggest increase in exports. Hong Kong led with exports of $28.3 billion, compared to $21.9 billion in 1983, and South Korea was second at $29.2 billion, up from $24.4 billion. Only Pakistan showed a decline, from $3 billion to $2.5 billion.
The Western Hemisphere also showed large gains in exports. Brazil's rose to $27 billion from $21.9 billion, and Mexico's to $24.4 billion from $21.8 billion.
Only six African countries have reported full data for last year. Nigeria showed a gain, to $14.5 billion from $11.5 billion, while South Africa dropped to $17.3 billion from $18.6 billion.