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Myanmar Destined to a Continued Trade Deficit

It turns out that Myanmar is to undergo a recurring trade gap this year as the latest deficit figure towards the end of the current financial year that ends on March 31 has reached $3.8 billion.

According to the statistics released from the Ministry of Commerce, foreign trade volume until March 9 in the 2017-2018 financial year hit $31.1 billion, of which export value shared $13.6 billion and import value stood at $17.4 billion. With the resulted deficit of $3.8 billion, the country is on its way to repeat a sizeable negative balance of trade as last year, which saw a deficit of more than $5 billion.

Up to March 9, Myanmar performed a year-on-year surplus of $4.3 billion in external trade for the 2017-2018 financial year. The value of normal trade (maritime trade) accounted for $23.3 billion while that of border trade reached $7.7 billion in the period to produce a decrease of mere $0.85 billion in trade deficit if compared to the same period last year during which the negative balance amounted to $4.65 billion.

The gap of $3.8 billion presents a blow to the projection of the Ministry of Planning and Finance, which has expected only $1 billion trade deficit for the whole 2017-2018 budget year, estimating annual trade value to account for $29 billion. Myanmar suffered a serial negative balance of trade in recent years; $92 million for 2012-2013, $2.5 billion for 2013-2014, $4.9 billion for 2014-2015 and $5 billion for 2015- 2016. The country’s export structure is largely dominated by natural resources and primary products. It mainly exports agricultural produce and oil and natural gas. Other major exports include forest products, fishery produce, mined products, clothing, rubber and raw materials. It imports consumer products, fuel, industrial machines, capital goods and other value-added products.

The amount of imports into Myanmar normally surpasses that of exports in normal trade while export volume is bigger than import volume in border trade, according to the figures reported by the Central Statistical Organisation. The country has entered into border trade agreements with four out of its five neighbouring countries; China, India, Thailand and Bangladesh. In addition to China, Thailand and India, its other major trading partners are Japan, Indonesia, Germany and Hong-Kong.