TRADE SEC SEES TOUGHER YEAR FOR RP

Manila, Jan. 19, 2003 (Star) - Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel Roxas II sees a "tougher year" for the Philippine economy this year.

Delivering the keynote address during the opening of the Third Annual Planning Conference and International Trade Promotion Workshop of the Department of Trade and Industry Foreign Trade Service Corps (FTSC), Roxas said this year would be a "much tougher year for the Philippine economy as well as global economies."

Roxas cited the fact that the US economy is stalled and so are the economies of the European Union.

Japan is on its 11th year of recession, while Germany is on the edge of a recession, Roxas pointed out.

The US and Japan are the Philippines' biggest export markets. As such, if their economies are down, Philippine exports are likely to decline, resulting in lower income for the country.

At the same time, Roxas noted the fact that oil is up to $33 per barrel from $19.50 a barrel.

Higher crude oil prices would translate to higher utility costs which would, in turn, adversely impact on manufacturing costs. Roxas, however, is not totally pessimistic about the outlook for next year.

In fact, he sees some bright spots. One of these bright spots, Roxas said, is China.

According to Roxas. "China is opening up its 1.3-billion market which will create its own demand dynamics."

He, therefore, urged the DTI foreign trade service officers to tap the China market for new business opportunities.

Roxas predicts that "China will be a very lucrative market because of its very strong domestic economy."

He cited the fact that China "has about 1.3 billion people to clothe, feed and shelter and it is up to us to take advantage of this opportunity."

The second bright spot, Roxas said, is President Arroyo's decision not to run in 2004 which "creates new space for us to work undistracted by any political color."


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