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Israeli exports to Asia nearly matched those to the United States in the first quarter, with exports to China climbing 15%, figures from the Export Institute showed on Tuesday.

Exports to Asia, which today account for about 20% of all Israeli sales overseas, reached $2.2 billion in the first three months of the year, a 6% drop from the quarter before but a 7% increase from the same time in 2011. Exports to the region have been on a rising trend as the economies of Israel's two major exports markets - the United States and Europe - suffer.

Exports to the United States rose 3% from the previous quarter to $2.4 billion. They plunged 23% from the same time a year ago, but that was due to a shift in Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries' overseas sales from the United States to Europe, the institute reported. Discounting the impact of Teva, there was virtually no change in year-on-year exports to the United States, the institute said.

The year-on-year rise to Asia was led by a 15% increase in exports to China to $540 million. By contrast, exports to India edged 5% lower to $320 million, and those to Hong Kong were down about 10% to $115 million. All told, exports declined 6.5% from the final quarter of 2011 and by 5% from a year earlier to $10.9 billion.

Nevertheless, the decline in exports to Europe has been somewhat offset by a recovery in the United States. Exports to European Union countries dropped 16% from the previous quarter to $3.6 billion, although there was some improvement from a year earlier because of Teva.

To the rest of the world, exports declined 3.5% year-on-year to $2.8 billion.