MANILA, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines' total merchandise trade contracted by 10.5 percent, reaching 13.19 billion U.S. dollars in December 2018 from the 14.74 billion U.S. dollars recorded in December 2017, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said on Tuesday.
This is the first negative growth posted since July 2016, according to the Philippine National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
Of the total external trade, the PSA said 4.72 billion U.S. dollars or 35.8 percent were exported goods and 8.47 billion U.S. dollars or 64.2 percent were imported goods.
Furthermore, the Philippines' balance of trade in goods (BoT-G) decreased to a 3.75 billion U.S. dollars deficit in December 2018, from 3.97 billion U.S. dollars deficit in December 2017.
Nevertheless, NEDA said the total merchandise trade for the full year 2018 still grew by 7.0 percent, reaching 176.4 billion U.S. dollars, compared with the 164.8 billion U.S. dollars recorded in 2017.
For 2018, imports grew by 13.4 percent. Total exports for the full year, on a cumulative basis, contracted by 1.8 percent.
As external challenges remain in the region, merchandise trade growth in the Philippines softened in December 2018, in both exports and imports, according to NEDA.
The Philippines' total export sales in December 2018 was valued at 4.72 billion U.S. dollars, indicating a decrease of 12.3 percent, from 5.38 billion U.S. dollars in December 2017.
On the other hand, total imported goods for the period of December 2018 slid by 9.4 percent, from 9.36 billion U.S. dollars in December 2017 to 8.47 billion U.S. dollars in December 2018.
"Merchandise trade in all the monitored Asian economies continued to weaken in the last month of 2018," Philippine Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.
To mitigate this impact, the Philippine government should continue to work on legislative reforms that will open up sectors for foreign investment, he said.
"We should encourage foreign firms to transfer their manufacturing facilities to the Philippines and to take advantage of the growing domestic market," Pernia said.