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PH urged to boost trade with Asean neighbors

By Michelle Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:47:00 04/18/2011

Filed Under: International (Foreign)Trade, Poverty, Economy and Business and Finance

MANILA, Philippines?The Asian Development Bank has urged the Philippines to trade more with its neighbors as a strategy to address lingering poverty despite a sustained economic growth.

Juzhong Zhuang, deputy chief economist at the ADB, said in a forum on Monday that achieving ?inclusive growth??economic expansion that benefits the poor?remained a challenge for some countries in Asia Pacific, including the Philippines, despite their encouraging growth performances.

The Philippine economy, for instance, grew 7.3 percent last year and by nearly 5 percent in the previous 10 years. Nonetheless, unemployment and poverty remained a problem in the country. The proportion of Filipinos living below the poverty line was estimated to be near a third of the country?s population.

?Despite high growth, employment creation remains sluggish in many countries,? Zhuang said in a statement delivered on Monday during the forum on labor, trade and inclusive growth. The conference was organized by the ADB, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Collaborative Initiative on Trade and Employment.

In an interview with reporters at the sidelines of the forum, Zhuang said increasing trade with neighboring countries would help countries like the Philippines to earn more because Asia remained a vibrant region and a huge export market.

The Philippines generates about a third of its overall income from exports, but bulk of these are with Western economies led by the United States. Other developing Asian countries are also significantly dependent on the West for export receipts and ADB said this was a reason developing Asian economies were affected when the West suffered from an economic turmoil.

The ADB economist said refocusing trade of Asian countries to their neighbors would help them become less vulnerable to shocks in the West.

He noted that the Philippines had been trading with other countries less than the global average. Zhuang noted that from 2000 to 2009, average growth in external trade by countries stood at 6 percent. He said growth in external trade by the Philippines stood below 6 percent.

Zhuang said, however, that increasing trade required some policy adjustments, including liberalizing some trade restrictions, mostly non-tariff in the case of the Philippines.

Based on $1.25-a-day poverty line, poverty incidence in Asia dropped to 27.1 percent in 2005 from 52.3 percent in 1990. ?ADB?s goal is an Asia and Pacific region free of poverty,? Zhuang said.



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