Cheaper Exports? Not So Fast

Manufacturers face soaring materials and financing costs

When East Asia's currencies started crashing last summer, Vigor International President Wang Yu-len smelled opportunity. Like many Asian middlemen who export garments and handicrafts to big retailers in the U.S., Taipei-based Vigor had been relying heavily on low-cost factories in China. With the Indonesian rupiah, Thai baht, Malaysian ringgit, and Philippines peso all suddenly trading at less than half their old values against the dollar--while China's renminbi remained stable--Wang figured Southeast Asia would be awash with bargains.

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