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Philippine total trade up 9.9 pct in 2017
Last Updated: 2018-02-09 16:12 | Xinhua
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The Philippine total trade grew 9.9 percent in 2017, as imports and exports growth rates ran higher than government estimates, the government said on Friday.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said that imports and exports posted 10.2 percent and 9.5 percent growth rates, respectively, in 2017, exceeding the government's growth estimates of 9.0 percent for imports and 8.0 percent for exports.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the country's total trade grew by 8.6 percent in December 2017, pushing full-year trade growth to 9.9 percent. "This is better than the 5.8 percent full-year trade growth recorded in 2016," the PSA said.

The PSA said imports in December 2017 posted a hefty growth of 17.6 percent as all commodity groups registered increases while exports declined by 4.9 percent, its only negative growth for 2017 and first decline since November 2016.

The NEDA stressed the need for the government to continue to implement strategies that would heighten demand for Philippine-made products to sustain merchandise trade growth.

"We need to effectively respond to market trends and consumer preferences worldwide to drive more demand for Philippine-made products," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.

He said this can be done by gathering timely and relevant information on emerging demands in potential markets through the help of diplomatic posts and trade attaches.

Moreover, he said intensified market research and tighter linkages with businesses, malls and shopping centers abroad would help increase the visibility of Philippine export products.

"To drive exports growth, we are also looking at maximizing trade agreements with countries in the region," Pernia said.

He noted that export volumes may increase especially for banana, coconut, and other agricultural produce by negotiating tariff structures and implementing free trade agreements to bring down tariffs levied on Philippine agricultural exports in major export markets.

For its part, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has already targeted to increase the marketing for halal food, fashion and textiles by helping the local halal industry to consolidate and produce better-quality goods.

"On the domestic front, the Philippine economy is also set to maintain an upward momentum with higher infrastructure spending on account of the "Build, Build, Build" program, which refers to President Rodrigo Duterte's ambitious infrastructure program.

"With improved infrastructure landscape, we could reduce the cost of doing business," Pernia said.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority and the Board of Investments also expect expanding confidence and interest among investors this year, particularly in upstream industries like cement, steel, shipbuilding and petrochemicals, among others.

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