March 12, 2019

The Philippine government should step up efforts to strengthen relations with trade partners to further increase market access amid easing global demand, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said on the release of the country’s trade figures for January.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported today that the country’s merchandise trade grew by 2.9 percent, reaching USD14.3 billion in January 2019, reversing the negative outturn in December 2018.

January’s trade performance is largely due to a rebound in imports, which grew by 5.8 percent, supported by increases in the import values of consumer goods, capital goods, and raw materials and intermediate goods.

Exports, meanwhile, recorded a 1.7 percent drop although at a slower pace as lower receipts from manufactures and minerals offset the gains in exports of forest and total agro-based products.

“The Department of Agriculture is currently in talks with Singapore, Russia, and Monaco for possible arrangements to increase Philippine agricultural export products to these countries,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said.

He said that exporters are also strongly encouraged to explore opportunities in emerging sectors and to respond to increasing market demand for other non-traditional exports to broaden exports base.

“Also, the likely conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement this year will be a welcome development,” Pernia said.

The RCEP aims to achieve greater market access for goods, services and investments, and provide business-friendly and trade-facilitative rules for businesses and investors among its 16 member economies.

“The RCEP would significantly benefit exporters considering that its member economies – which include ASEAN countries, Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand – constitute a third of global output and more than a quarter of the world’s population,” he noted.

Meanwhile, imports growth is still seen to be constrained by the delayed approval of the 2019 national budget and the election-spending ban.

“The importation of raw materials is likely to be affected by the holdback in the implementation of numerous projects under government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program,” Pernia said.

Nonetheless, the economic team—NEDA, the Department of Finance, and the Department of Budget and Management—has formally requested the Commission on Elections to exempt at least 145 priority infrastructure projects from the election ban to minimize delays while mitigating its effects on economic growth.