MANILA – Backed by strong growth in imports, the total merchandise trade grew by 7.3 percent in November 2016, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Based on a report by the Philippine Statistics Authority, total trade grew to US$12.0 billion in November 2016, with imports growing by 19.7 percent and mitigating the 7.5 percent drop in exports.

“The surge in trade transactions with East Asia and the ASEAN boosted the performance of imports, which also signals an increase in the purchasing power of Filipinos. We expect that this further increased in December 2016,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia.

Import payments grew to US$7.3 billion due to the swell in demand for capital goods (29.7%), consumer goods (32.6%), raw materials and intermediate goods (11.1%), and mineral fuels and lubricants (1.3%).

Conversely, export earnings dropped to US$4.7 billion due to the 10.6 percent decrease in the value of manufactured goods, mostly electronics that declined by 7.9 percent.

“While we are expanding our trade relations with potential markets, we need to further harness our existing free trade agreements and continue to push for reforms. This will improve our business environment and increase our attractiveness to foreign investors,” the Cabinet official said.

Moreover, the performance of agro-industry products are seen to further increase with the renewed and improving relations with China and Russia.

Pernia also said that the positive global growth outlook paired with the upcoming ASEAN integration is the perfect opportunity to expand the Philippines’ exports portfolio.

“We must continue to develop our infrastructure and encourage product differentiation and quality upgrading to prepare our micro, small, and medium enterprises, for the upcoming increase in demand from our new trading partners,” he added.