PH trade deficit narrows in April as exports recover

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 11) — Philippine exports posted a modest increase while goods imports were slashed in April, resulting in a slight narrowing of the country's trade deficit, government data released Tuesday showed.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that the country's trade deficit tapered to $3.5 billion for the month, coming from a $3.7-billion gap posted in April 2018. It is still wider than March's $3.1-billion deficit, and is the biggest gap since January.

A trade deficit means the Philippines continued to bring in more goods from abroad versus what it produces and sells overseas.

The country saw a modest 0.4 percent increase in goods exports in April, with the value rising to $5.5 billion versus $5.48 billion last year. That ended four straight months of a contraction.

Fresh bananas saw foreign sales soar by 77 percent during the month, followed by a 36 percent jump in gold exports, the PSA said. Other big gainers for the month are machinery and transport equipment, coconut oil, car wiring sets, aircrafts and ships, and other manufactured items.

Electronics remained the country's biggest export product, which grew by 3 percent year-on-year to account for more than half the April haul.

The United States remained the biggest export destination for locally-made products, taking a 16.5 percent share of the total.

On the other hand, the Philippines' import bill went down to $9 billion, 1.9 percent lower than the $9.18 billion recorded the previous year. Imports ballooned by 28.6 percent in April 2018.

It is the first time that imports contracted since December.

The country imported fewer transport equipment, plastic, iron and steel, industrial machines, and telecommunication equipment this April. Electronic products also remained the top import item for the month, which rose by 2 percent to a total of $2.36 billion.

Economic officials had earlier attributed the imports' surge to the government's aggressive infrastructure drive under the "Build, Build, Build" program. However, state-funded projects have been stalled due to the delayed passage of the 2019 budget as well as the public works ban running up to the May 13 midterm elections.

China was the biggest source of imported items that month, providing a fourth of total imports, the PSA said. Other big trading partners are Japan, South Korea, the US, and Singapore.

April brought the four-month tally to $13.263 billion, 12.4 percent wider than the $11.802-billion shortfall during the same period last year.

Total imports reached $35.184 billion against $21.921 billion worth of exports.