By Elijah Felice Rosales, April 3 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

THE country’s trade chief wants the Philippines to diversify its exports to China in a bid to balance its trade sheet with the economic superpower.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said he intends to further grow the country’s bilateral trade with China. However, this time, he wants shipments to the East Asian country to expand to higher-value products, such as luxury furniture, automotive parts and electronics.

He asserted that President Duterte’s pivot to China provides the perfect opportunity to augment exports and reduce Manila’s trade deficit with Beijing in the process.

“There is great demand for Philippine products. We just have to increase production of agricultural and manufactured goods for us to meet this demand,” Lopez said in a speech at a recent business forum.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported exports to China grew 8.48 percent to $8.69 billion last year, from $8.01 billion in 2017.

However, imports from China also rose 22.5 percent to $21.39 billion, from $17.46 billion. In turn, the trade gap jumped to $12.7 billion, from $9.45 billion during the reference years.

Last year, top Philippine exports to China included electronic products ($4.94 billion), manufactured goods ($612.53 million), cathodes ($579.07 million), bananas ($539.51 million) and mineral products ($446.95 million), according to PSA data.

To promote Philippine goods in China, the government is gearing up for trade exhibits hosted there, such as the China International Import Expo in November. Lopez said his agency is eyeing to bring in 100 exhibitors to the CIIE, from only 36 last year.

With 100 exhibitors, Lopez wants sales from the CIIE to double to nearly $250 million that this year, from the $124 million that the delegation generated last year.

On top of trade, China is becoming one of the country’s largest sources of foreign investments. Data from the Board of Investments reported investment pledges from China peaked $962.61 million last year, from only $46.3 million in 2017 and $31.99 million in 2016.