The country’s trade deficit widened to a record $22.4 billion in the first 11 months of 2016 from $10.7 billion a year ago, as imports grew strongly and exports sank, data from the Philippine Statistics Office show.
Trade deficit in November hit $2.6 billion, with imports rising 19.7 percent year-on-year to $17.3 billion and exports tumbling 7.5 percent to $4.7 billion.
Data showed total merchandise exports contracted 5.2 percent in January to September to $51.4 billion from $54.2 billion a year ago, while imports climbed 13.7 percent to $73.7 billion from $64.8 billion.
The National Economic and Development Authority said the surge in trade transactions with East Asia and Asean boosted the performance of imports, which also signaled an increase in the purchasing power of Filipinos.
Neda said imports grew in November due to the swell in demand for capital goods (up 29.7 percent), consumer goods (32.6 percent), raw materials and intermediate goods (11.1 percent), and mineral fuels and lubricants (1.3 percent).
Export earnings dropped to $4.7 billion in November mainly because of the 10.6-percent decrease in the value of manufactured goods, mostly electronics that declined 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,” Neda director-general Ernesto Pernia said.
Neda expressed optimism about exports growth this year. Agro-industry exports are expected to increase with the renewed and improving relations with China and Russia.
Pernia said the positive global growth outlook paired with the upcoming Asean integration would be a 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 said.