PH trade gap narrows to $3.5B in April 2019

MANILA – The Philippine trade gap narrowed in April, helped by higher shipments in seven of the country’s top 10 export commodities, data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Tuesday showed.

The country’s balance of trade in goods narrowed to a $3.50-billion deficit in April from the $3.70-billion deficit in the same month last year.

Total export sales in April grew by 0.4 percent to $5.51 billion, reflecting the first growth in five months, following four consecutive months of declines.

“This was due to the increases in export sales of the seven of the top 10 major export commodities,” the PSA said in an accompanying statement.

Higher exports were reported in following commodities:

  • fresh bananas, up 76.7 percent
  • gold, up 36.1 percent
  • machinery and transport equipment, up 28.5 percent
  • coconut oil, up 18.1 percent
  • ignition wiring set and other wiring sets used in vehicles, aircrafts and ships, up 14.5 percent
  • other manufactured goods, up 4.0 percent
  • electronic products, up 3.0 percent

“To further drive exports up, we are looking at continuously increasing market access for Philippine products and reforms to improve productivity and lower production costs,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said in a separate statement.

Among the enhancements the economic managers are eyeing include amendments to the Public Service Act, the Foreign Investment Act, and the Retail Trade Act.

“With the passage of these reforms, we can leverage the Philippines’ attractiveness to both foreign and local investors. These investments can help our industry to improve production efficiency and product diversification,” added Pernia.

Meanwhile, imports fell by 1.9 percent to $9.01 billion from $9.18 billion in the same month last year, given the decline in five major import commodities:

  • transport equipment, down 27.7 percent
  • plastic in primary and non-primary form, down 14.2 percent
  • iron and steel, down 14.2 percent
  • industrial machinery and equipment, down 10.6 percent
  • telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery, down 1.0 percent

“From the imports side, the year-on-year slowdown in shipments of raw materials and flat growth in capital goods may not reflect slowing momentum just yet, as effects from the policy rate cuts by the BSP may soon jumpstart capital expansion,” Robert Dan Roces, chief economist at Security Bank Corp., said in a separate emailed commentary.

The policy-setting Monetary Board last month decided to reduce key policy rates by 25 basis points, marking the first cut in over six years.

“The budget delay which put government projects on hold, led to the contraction of importation of construction materials. We also see a return of household consumption on the back of lower inflation, and this may drive up imports again,” added Roces.

The country’s total external trade in goods reached $14.51 billion in the four months to April, reflecting a 1.0 percent decrease from $14.66 billion in 2018.

Of the total trade, 37.9 percent was accounted for by export shipments and 62.1 percent by imported goods. (GMA News)


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