Located in the western Pacific Ocean, the Southeast Asian nation called the Republic of Philippines shipped US$67.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -1.8% dip since 2014 but a 9.2% increase from 2017 to 2018.
In addition, the Philippines furnished an estimated $37.5 billion worth of international services during 2018 encompassing about $7.5 billion from travel-related services. The focus of this article is on exported goods.
Given the Philippines’ population of 105.9 million people, its total $67.5 billion in 2018 exported products translates to roughly $650 for every resident in the densely populated Southeast Asian island.
Philippines Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Filipino global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from the Philippines.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$32.9 billion (48.7% of total exports)
- Machinery including computers: $9.6 billion (14.3%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $2.2 billion (3.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $2.1 billion (3.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.5 billion (2.2%)
- Copper: $1.4 billion (2.1%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $1.2 billion (1.8%)
- Ships, boats: $1.2 billion (1.8%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $1.2 billion (1.7%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $1.1 billion (1.7%)
Philippines top 10 exports accounted for about four-fifths (80.7%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Fruits and nuts was the fastest-growing among the Philippines’ top 10 export categories, up 16% from 2017 to 2018.
In second place for improving export sales were Filipino shipments of mineral fuels-related goods which appreciated 10.4% propelled by better international cashflow from refined petroleum oils.
Gems and precious metals posted the third-fastest gain up 7%, due mainly to superior silver sales.
Copper was the leading decliner among export categories for the Philippines due to its -31.7% year-over-year drop.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level.
The following types of Filipino product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$4.5 billion (Down by -52.4% since 2017)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.7 billion (Up by 16.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.2 billion (Down by -0.1%)
- Ships, boats: $984.6 million (Down by -34.1%)
- Copper: $578.2 million (Down by -56.6%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $423.3 million (Up by 14%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $401.4 million (Down by -16.3%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $325.9 million (Down by -23.4%)
- Nickel: $322.1 million (Down by -24.5%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $230.3 million (Down by -56%)
The Philippines has highly positive net exports in the international trade of electronic equipment including consumer electronics. In turn, these cashflows indicate the Philippines’ strong competitive advantages under the electronic equipment category.
Overall the Philippines incurred a -$47.6 billion trade deficit in 2018, up 43.6% from -$33.2 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from the Philippines that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country the Philippines’ goods trail Filipino importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$12.7 billion (Up by 22.5% since 2017)
- Vehicles: -$7.5 billion (Down by -0.9%)
- Iron, steel: -$5.1 billion (Up by 33%)
- Machinery including computers: -$3.1 billion (Down by -28.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$2.9 billion (Up by 13.8%)
- Cereals: -$2.7 billion (Up by 50.4%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$2.3 billion (Up by 77.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.6 billion (Down by -2.2%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: -$1.6 billion (Up by 16.1%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.5 billion (Up by 23.6%)
The Philippines has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products especially refined petroleum oils followed by crude oil, coal then petroleum gas.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate the Philippines’ competitive disadvantages in the international fossil fuel market, but also represent key opportunities for the Philippines to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations particularly in alternative energy sources.
Filipino Export Companies
Ten Filipino corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major export companies headquartered in the Philippines that Forbes included:
- Aboitiz Equity Ventures (industrial conglomerates)
- Alliance Global Group (industrial conglomerates)
- Ayala (industrial conglomerates)
- PLDT (telecommunications services)
- San Miguel (industrial conglomerates)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are also examples of Filipino export companies:
- Acbel Polytech Philippines (electric static converters, primary batteries)
- Aruze G A Philippines Branch (machine tools, printers, copiers, operated games)
- Calfurn Mfg Philippines (bamboo/wood furniture, kitchenware, tableware)
- Pacific Paint Boysen Philippines (polymers, oils)
- Yuenthai Philippines (shirts, blouses)
The latest available country-specific data shows that 86.8% of products exported from the Philippines were bought by importers in: United States (15.6% of the global total), Hong Kong (14.2%), Japan (14%), China (12.9%), Singapore (6.3%), Germany (4.2%), Thailand (4%), South Korea (3.8%), Netherlands (3.7%), Taiwan (3.7%), Malaysia (2.9%) and France (1.7%).
From a continental perspective, two-thirds (66.7%) of Filipino exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 17.4% was sold to North American importers. The Philippines shipped another 13.8% worth of goods to clients in Europe. Smaller percentages went to Oceania (1%) led by Australia, Latin America (0.7%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Africa (0.4%).
In macroeconomic terms, the Philippines’ total exported goods represent 7.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($952.6 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 7.1% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2018 compares to 9.7% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Philippines’ total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that the Philippines also provided $37.5 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 3.9% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for the Philippines was 5.4% at September 2019, up from 5.3% in January 2018 per Trading Economics.
Reprinted with permission based on the World’s Top Exports’ latest study on the Philippines.
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 16, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 16, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 16, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 16, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on September 16, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of the Philippines. Accessed on September 16, 2019
Wikipedia, Philippines. Accessed on September 16, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on September 16, 2019
World’s Richest Countries, Targeted research > Enriching insights > Global opportunities (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 16, 2019