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Struck hard by Asia’s continuing economic slump, Japan’s exports of passenger cars, trucks and buses dropped 3.3 percent from the previous year to 4,519,289 units for fiscal 1998, marking the first decrease in three years, an industry group said Tuesday.

According to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, passenger car exports decreased 0.4 percent to 3,705,228 units, trucks fell 14.4 percent to 768,384 and buses dropped 15.7 percent to 45,677 units for fiscal 1998 that ended on March 31.

By region, exports to Asia plummeted by 53.3 percent from the previous year to hit 248,880 units. In particular, truck exporters suffered sharp falls in Asia.

Total truck exports to the region fell by 63 percent to 62,696 units, and small trucks dropped by 76.6 percent to 12,026 units compared with the previous year, JAMA officials said.

Meanwhile, exports to the Middle East, Europe, North America and the Pacific regions increased for three consecutive years in fiscal 1998, which ended March 31.

For fiscal 1999, there are some signs of recovery in Southeast Asian markets, JAMA officials said.

But overall, the association expects the nation’s exports to continue to decrease this fiscal year because exports to the Middle East and South and Central America are expected to dwindle.

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