Economists expecting a pickup in Western demand to drive Asia's growth recovery have been disappointed thus far.
"There has been a striking breakdown in the relationship between Asia's exports and demand indicators in the U.S./European Union," said Taimur Baig, economist at Deustche Bank.
Historically, a recovery in advanced economies has boosted Asian exports, which has in turn boosted income and investment in the region.
However, Baig points out that data through July show only small pockets of strength, with the region as a whole exporting much less than expected.
Data released Monday show exports by trade powerhouse South Korea's dipped 0.1 percent on-year in August, below expectations for a 0.2 percent rise and marking the first annual fall since May.
Trade data from South Korea, the world's seventh-largest exporter, provides an early gauge on the strength of global demand as it's the first major exporting economy to publish trade data each month.
Indonesia's exports, meanwhile, plunged 6 percent on year in July, far worse than forecasts for a 2 percent decline.
Asia's sputtering export engine
One reason an export-led recovery is lacking is that the recovery in the U.S. has been accompanied by unusually weak labor market conditions, said Baig.
"The unemployment rate has declined, but some of that is has been due to a large rise in discouraged workers. A large pool of contract workers has emerged, with far less sense of job security than permanent hires. This, in combination with tightened bank lending conditions, in turn can lead to lower incentive to consume," he said.
The situation is even worse in Europe and as long as labor market weakness persists Asian exporters will struggle, he said.