THE DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry (DTI) now expects overseas sales of Philippine goods to remain at last year’s level, reflecting a potential improvement from last year’s drop but still short of the already-tempered target set last July by state economic managers.

In his keynote for exporters’ annual summit at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Friday, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said: “We expect merchandise export performance to be flat and service exports to post moderate single-digit growth leading to total exports achieving positive moderate single digit growth for 2019.”

In July, the Development Budget Coordination Committee cut its merchandise export sales projection to two percent for this year from six percent previously “due to slower global growth” and maintained the previous six-percent annual outlook for 2020-2022. Service export growth assumption was cut to nine percent for this year from 10% and set also at nine percent from 11% previously for 2020-2022.

DTI’s Export Marketing Bureau had said in October that it expects merchandise export sales to increase 1-3% this year, from four percent previously.

Merchandise exports slipped by just 0.1% to $52.556 billion as of September from $52.632 billion in last year’s comparable 10 months, according to latest available data of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) as of November, raising hopes that these sales would outdo their 1.8% year-on-year drop to $67.488 billion in 2018.

The PSA is scheduled to report October foreign trade data on Dec. 10.

Gross domestic product data which PSA reported last Nov. 7 also showed service export growth slowing to 5.1% in the first three quarters from 9.3% the past year.

“Foremost of the challenge today is the global slowdown brought about by the US-China trade war, which started in 2018,” Mr. Lopez said on Friday.

“This dispute has resulted in positive and negative impacts of the trade war spilling over to the rest of the world. On the negative side, there is the slowdown in global trade growth, the disruption of supply chains, and increased policy uncertainty. The positive effects that the Philippine can capitalize include trade diversion and shifting of production bases.”

While the government-private sector Export Development Council “is maintaining a target of $122B-130B[illion] for total exports to be achieved by the end of 2022”, Mr. Lopez said that “[w]hile our imports are currently helping to bolster our country’s growth, we need to strengthen our exports and address the obstacles in the way.”

“This will not only strengthen our export sector — especially amidst the ongoing global slowdown — and address our trade deficit, it will also support our goal of creating more jobs and employment for our people.” — VVS