This year too, Israeli exporters are targeting East Asia at the expense of the United States, while export growth to the European Union has slowed, according to data from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.

Exports to Asia jumped 16% in the first two months of the year, while exports to the United States contracted 27% in that time.

Meanwhile, exports to the European Union increased 5% in January and February (compared with the same two months of 2011 ) to $2.2 billion.

But in the previous two months, November and December 2011, exports to the EU had increased 37% against the same period of 2011.

In 2011 as a whole, exports to the EU grew 20%.

Chemicals - including pharmaceuticals and oil distillates, which skew the figures - comprised nearly half of exports to the EU in 2011. If chemicals are excluded, exports in January-February 2012 contracted 2% against the same period of 2011.

Exports to the United States have been declining as Israeli companies, notably drug makers, target Asia.

But again, if chemicals and pharmaceuticals are left out of the equation, exports to the United States actually rebounded, rising 5% in January-February 2012 compared with the same period of 2011.