The Philippines recorded an overall trade deficit of -US$11.5 billion during 2015, a 26.5% improvement from the -$15.7 billion Filipino deficit in 2011.
But not all products that the Philippines buys and sells on global markets result in more money flowing out of the island country for import purchases from foreign suppliers than flow in as exports revenues from international buyers.
The Philippines earned a trade surplus of $29.1 billion from 289 product categories in 2015. That subtotal was overshadowed by the cumulative trade deficits from other product categories.
From a positive perspective, proven opportunities surface if we focus on the product categories generating the highest surpluses–areas where the Philippines has strong competitive advantages.
Top 15 Trade Surpluses by Product
Filipino surpluses arise from a wide range of products, ranging from computers and solar power components to bananas and coconut oil.
Below are the major product categories for which the Philippines garnered the highest positive trade balances in 2015. In addition to each surplus amount, shown within parenthesis is the change for each product category since 2011.
- Computers, optical readers: $4.1 billion (Up 51.7% from 2015)
- Wood carpentry, builders’ joinery: $2.7 billion (Up 64.4%)
- Solar power diodes/semi-conductors: $2.4 billion (Up 3.2%)
- Insulated wire/cable: $1.8 billion (Up 113.6%)
- Cruise/cargo ships, barges: $1.3 billion (Up 160.2%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $1.1 billion (Up 18.6%)
- Coconut oil: $1 billion (Down -26%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: $888.1 million (Down -45.8%)
- Nickel ores, concentrates: $739.8 million (Up 79.9%)
- Integrated circuits/microassemblies: $735 million (Down -26.6%)
- Magnets including electro-magnets: $554.1 million (Down -782.8%)
- Copper ores, concentrates: $507.3 million (Down -226.3%)
- Miscellaneous preserved fruits: $467 million (Up 64.4%)
- Bananas, plantains: $439.8 million (Down -6.6%)
- Regulating/control instruments: $412.4 million (Up 877.7%)
Nine of the top 15 product categories posted increases in their individual trade surpluses over the five-year period, led by regulating or control instruments (up 877.7%), cruise or cargo ships and barges (up 160.2%) and insulated wire or cable (up 113.6%).
Six of the categories recorded diminished surpluses from 2011 to 2015. The most severe decline was for magnets including electro-magnets (down -782.8%), copper ores and concentrates (down -226.3%) and automobile parts and accessories (down -45.8%).
Overall, the above 15 categories are responsible for almost two-thirds (65.9%) of the $29.1 billion in trade surpluses from the 289 product categories contributing positive balances for the Philippines.
The World Factbook, Economy: Philippines, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on September 11, 2016
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 11, 2016
Wikipedia, Economic crisis and response in the Philippines. Accessed on September 11, 2016