Trade gap down in February

The country’s trade deficit fell in February, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.

In a report on Thursday, the PSA said export sales during the month amounted to $5.31 billion, down by 2.2 percent from the $5.5 billion in January this year.

It was also lower than the $5.4 billion recorded in February last year.

Imports, on the other hand, amounted to $7.60 billion, down from the $8.39 billion seen in
January but higher than the $7.4 billion in February 2020.

This resulted in the trade balance posting a gap of $2.29 billion, smaller than the $2.87 billion in January but bigger than the $1.96 billion a year ago.

According to the PSA, the decline in exports was due to the annual decreases led by cathodes and sections of cathodes of refined copper at -24.8 percent.

This was followed by machinery and transport equipment at -4.1 percent, and other manufactured goods at -2.2 percent.

The increment of imported goods, meanwhile, was attributed to the increase of telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery (23.2 percent), food and live animals (13.7 percent), plastics in primary and non-primary forms (8.8 percent), industrial machinery and equipment (7.0 percent), iron and steel (5.4 percent), electronic products (3.7 percent), and miscellaneous manufactured articles (1.3 percent).

In a comment, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) chief economist Michael Ricafort said the decline in imports reflects the relatively slower pick up in the local economy.

Ricafort said the tighter quarantine measures could continue to slow down the recovery in imports and in the broader economy.

“Imports have slowed down significantly since the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic, resulting to a much narrower trade deficit/lower net imports of about $16 billion in 2020, thereby resulting to a still relatively stronger peso exchange rate versus the US dollar, among the strongest in more than four years,” said Ricafort.

“Going forward, any further reopening of the local and global economy from lockdowns, as may be justified by any meaningful reduction in new Covid-19 cases partly as a result of the hard lockdowns since late March 2021, and further progress on arrivals and rollout of vaccines could help improve economic recovery prospects and also the further pick up in both imports and exports if the economic recovery gains further traction as a result,” he added.

Ricafort, however, said this could be offset by higher new Covid-19 cases and any delays in the rollout of vaccines that could slow down economic recovery prospects locally and worldwide, including the country’s major trade partners amid risk of lockdowns and travel restrictions.