Trade deficit trimmer but imports still way ahead

Greek exports rose at an annual clip of 18 percent annually in the first four months of the year, climbing to 5 billion euros from 4.2 billion euros in the same period last year, Eurostat, the EU’s statistics arm, announced yesterday. Imports also rose, by 9 percent, reaching 15.9 billion euros from 14.6 billion euros, and taking the trade deficit to 10.9 billion euros. April data marked a slowdown in the year’s records so far, as in the first three months exports had grown by 24 percent and imports by 10 percent. Greece, however, remains last in exports among eurozone countries, even trailing Luxembourg (which exported 6 billion euros’ worth of products) and being a long way from Portugal’s 10.9 billion euros in exports. Among the EU’s 25 states, only the five smallest non-eurozone members (Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) had a smaller export figure than Greece’s. Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday that the rise in exports «is not coincidental, it is mostly attributed to the measures and activity, the reforms and initiatives the government promotes for the restructuring of the economy.» Speaking at the meeting of the National Exports Council, he added that «this in no way means we can relax; we have no such luxury. On the contrary, there are important challenges we must face.» Alogoskoufis also announced measures the government is currently promoting to strengthen exports further, such as the reform of the legal framework about external trade. The basic principle of the new, modern and up-to-date draft law is the full liberalization of trade transactions, allowing the state to intervene only when its international commitments dictate it, through membership in international organizations and treaties, or in cases of emergency. Additionally, the General Register of Exporters will be computerized, with the international tender for the procurement of equipment expected soon. This is to chart the country’s exporting map, featuring data on exported products’ categories and locations of origin, as well as their destination. It will also enable the detailed recording of the country’s exporting enterprises. The government is planning how to fully use the options provided by the regulations of the European Union and the Community’s Customs Code to simplify and speed up the procedures required for exporting products of Special Monitoring Status, such as software and defense products. Alogoskoufis referred warmly to the record of the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (OPE). He suggested that «by using its potential provided by the modern product promotion techniques, OPE is constructing a new identity for Greek products and a broad network for their advertising and promotion to consumers abroad.» «With the intense activity OPE has developed, it has managed to bolster considerably the country’s presence in the big target markets, in accordance with the three main priorities we set two years ago in our exporting policy, while also opening up new markets for our products,» noted Alogoskoufis, who concluded by saying, «I am certain that the effects of OPE’s work will become more evident in the near future.»