The value of airborne trade last year increased 12 percent over 1988 to HK$234 billion (US$30 million), sharply down from the 32 percent increase that year over 1987.

Figures released by the Census and Statistics Department show airborne exports and re-exports last year totaled 422,741 metric tons, a gain of 4 percent on 1988. Imports amounted to 307,279 tons, up 7 percent.By contrast, 1988 figures showed exports up 24 percent, re-exports up 35 percent and imports up 41 percent on 1987 levels.

The value of air shipments to the United States, the largest market, rose just 1 percent last year over 1988 to HK$27.4 billion from HK$27.2 billion.

That compares with a 16 percent gain in 1988 and is the lowest growth among the 10 main markets except for Britain, to which shipments were virtually unchanged.

Taiwan notched up the most growth (44 percent), followed by Japan (up 17 percent) and Singapore, Canada and the Netherlands (each up 12 percent).

By commodity, the largest increases in air carriage of exports came in telecommunications and sound equipment (up 29 percent), electrical appliances and parts (up 13 percent) and office and data-processing equipment (up 12 percent).

Airborne clothing shipments to the United States gained 5 percent and those of telecommunications and sound gear 19 percent. Exports by air of footwear to the United States declined 38 percent.

Re-exports to the United States, also the No. 1 outlet, gained 20 percent to HK$11.5 billion from HK$9.6 billion. In 1988, they were running 32 percent higher than in 1987.

Thailand led growth in this section, with a 145 percent increase, followed by Japan (up 41 percent) and West Germany (up 40 percent).

The greatest increase in demand for air movement of re-exports was in clothing (up 50 percent), non-metallic mineral manufactures (up 43 percent) and photographic and optical goods and watches and clocks (up 33 percent).

To the United States, re-exports by air of clothing increased 46 percent and of non-metallic mineral manufactures 38 percent.

Imports by air rose most from Italy (up 37 percent), the United States (up 19 percent) and Taiwan (up 16 percent). There was a 2 percent decline from Britain.

The highest growth among airborne imports was recorded by transport equipment other than road vehicles (up 86 percent), clothing (up 36 percent) and non-metallic mineral manufactures (up 12 percent).

From the United States, which ranks second after China as a supplier of air-carried imports, purchases cost HK$21.5 billion against the HK$18 billion of 1988. That 19 percent growth compares with 37 percent in 1988 over 1987.

Most notable among U.S.-supplied airborne imports were transport equipment other than road vehicles (up 128 percent) and electrical equipment and parts (up 15 percent).