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U.S. tech exports tumble

America's high-tech exports fell by 20 percent in the first six months of 2002 when compared to the first half of last year.

America's high-tech exports dropped 20 percent in the first six months of 2002 when compared to the first half of last year, according to a study released Thursday.

During the first six months of this year, exports of tech gear produced in the United States totaled $82.4 billion, down from $102.5 billion in the first half of 2001, according to a report released by the AeA, a trade organization formerly known as the American Electronics Association.

"The data show that the tech industry is still struggling with the worldwide economic downturn of the last two years," AeA CEO William T. Archey said in a statement. "Not surprisingly, the sharpest downturns were to the European Union and Latin American countries. It will be quite sometime before exports return to the record levels of 1999 and 2000."

The largest decrease in total dollars was to the European Union, where U.S. tech exports dropped $6.7 billion, or 27 percent. Shipments to Canada dropped $3.3 billion, while those to Mexico fell $2.3 billion. Argentina's economic woes prompted an 84 percent decline in U.S. exports, which fell to $114 million in the first six months of this year, compared with $700 million in the first half of 2001.

U.S. companies did increase exports to a few countries. Exports to China climbed 2 percent and exports to Malaysia increased 7 percent.

The group said the largest increase was in exports to Costa Rica, where several U.S. technology manufacturers have opened facilities. In the first half of this year, high-tech exports to Costa Rica increased 78 percent, or by roughly $250 million, compared to the same period a year ago.