MANILA – The National Economic and Development Authority says that the country should continue to promote export competitiveness, diversify its products and markets, and maximize trade agreements to sustain trade growth for the rest of the year.

NEDA-attached agency Philippine Statistics Authority reported that total trade grew to USD13.7 billion in May 2017, with imports and exports growing by 13.7 percent and 16.6 percent, respectively.

“Our country’s trade growth is consistent with the global pick-up. We are striding forward with world trade performers and we intend to match this growth with sound macroeconomic policies,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia.

For January to May, total trade grew to USD63.3 billion (13.9 percent), with exports and imports growing by 16.3 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively.

Pernia noted that the 15.4 percent growth of total trade in May was supported by the sixth consecutive double-digit growth of exports since December 2016 and by the recovery of imports from its 0.1 percent decline in April.

In terms of markets, countries in East Asia remain strong trade partners with 48.3 percent share in export revenue and 46.2 percent share in imports.

Trade with ASEAN is also strong, with 15.7 percent share in export receipts and 26.1 percent share in inward shipments.

Meanwhile, exports to the European Union continued its third consecutive month of double-digit growth at 38.5 percent. ASEAN likewise remains a promising destination for exports, with exports to ASEAN economies growing by 25.6 percent in May.

The government expects Philippine exports to increase by about USD100 million annually in the next five years.

Travel goods such as bags and wallets can now enter the US market with zero tariff starting July 1 following the approval of the expansion of the US Generalized System of Preferences.

“As we aim to diversify our markets, we are pleased to note that our exports to Malta, United Arab Emirates, and India grew significantly,” Pernia said.

He explained that exports to Malta, India, and UAE grew by 130.6 percent, 71.9 percent, 211.9 percent, respectively, and that this is the fourth month this year that exports to UAE have almost tripled.

Trade of other Asian countries also posted double-digit growth rates led by Vietnam (25.8 percent), Indonesia (24.1 percent), Malaysia (23.4 percent), and India (22 percent).

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