Amidst the ever-evolving global economic landscape, Portugal's trade dynamics have remained a subject of scrutiny and analysis. The latest statistical data from Statistics Portugal reveals intriguing insights into the country's foreign trade performance in 2023, with a particular focus on September's trade deficit figures and a reflection back on the trends observed in 2022.
In September 2023, Portugal's trade deficit showcased a notable contraction, narrowing to EUR 2.17 billion compared to EUR 2.88 billion in the corresponding period the previous year. The decrease in the trade deficit was attributed to a sharper decline in imports, which fell by 13% to EUR 8.48 billion, outpacing the 8.2% contraction in exports that amounted to EUR 6.31 billion.
Delving deeper into the specifics, the decline in imports was primarily led by industrial supplies (-14.9%) and fuels and lubricants (-27%), a reflection of the decreased international market prices (-20.8%) for these products. Similarly, exports suffered mainly due to reduced industrial supplies (-9.3%), especially in cellulose pulp, paper, and chemicals.
Throughout the third quarter of 2023, exports and imports experienced a downturn of 8.7% and 12.4%, respectively, in comparison to the same period in 2022, indicating a broader economic shift impacting both inbound and outbound trade.
Portugal, known for running regular trade deficits, continued to rely significantly on machinery and mechanical appliances, despite this category contributing to the nation's largest trade deficit. Conversely, areas such as mineral products, cellulose pulp, paper, clothing, and footwear emerged as the sectors boasting substantial commercial surpluses.
Spain, France, and Germany maintained their positions as principal trading partners, accounting for over half of Portugal's total exports and imports. Notably, Spain represented the largest partner, contributing significantly to both imports and exports, albeit resulting in a trade deficit, while France stood out as the primary source of surplus for Portugal.
Outside the EU, the United States and China occupied prominent positions as major trading partners, influencing the country's trade balance with goods.
Reflecting on the trends observed in 2022, the end of the year witnessed nominal year-on-year variations in both exports and imports, albeit at a slower pace, possibly influenced by port strikes and a decrease in prices. Noteworthy increases in exports of machinery, fuels, and lubricants, along with increased imports of transport equipment, stood out among the trade statistics.
The trade deficit in December 2022 worsened compared to the previous year, amounting to EUR 2,750 million. For the entire year, despite substantial growth in both exports and imports, Portugal's trade deficit reached EUR 30,783 million, marking an increase of EUR 11,256 million from 2021.
Moreover, in the context of Germany, a key trading partner, the report highlighted a slowdown in its GDP growth in 2022. An analysis of Portuguese companies' transactions with Germany revealed that 14% of exports to the country were conducted by firms heavily exposed (above 80%) to this market, emphasizing the potential vulnerability of Portuguese companies to Germany's economic fluctuations.
As Portugal navigates the complex waters of global trade, these insights provide invaluable perspectives for policymakers and businesses, underlining the importance of strategic diversification and adaptive trade policies to enhance the nation's economic resilience in an interconnected world.