Jakarta. Indonesia posted an $11.84 billion trade surplus in 2017 — a five-year high — thanks to improving exports to key trading partners and as the global economy continued to recover and commodity prices improved.
Total exports last year were $168.73 billion, up 16.22 percent since 2016, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) announced on Monday (15/01). Meanwhile, imports also increased 15.66 percent to $156.9 billion in 2017.
Indonesia — Southeast Asia’s largest economy — suffered from trade deficits from 2012 to 2014, before returning to the black in 2015 with $7.67 billion in trade surplus and in 2016 with $9.53 billion.
According to BPS head Suhariyanto, the highest trade increase was in Indonesia's commodity exports. The country also managed to boost exports to non-traditional markets, most of them to Turkey, followed by Egypt and Brazil.
"We're confident surplus will be bigger still in 2018. Last year we had $20 billion in non-oil and gas surplus, but that was offset by an oil and gas deficit of $8.56 billion," Suhariyanto said.
Non-oil and gas exports earned the country $153 billion last year, up 15.83 percent since 2016 thanks to much-improved global commodity prices.
Despite the overall yearly surplus in 2017, Indonesia did post a trade deficit of $270 million in December, as export increases were offset by a surge in imports — boosted by purchases of capital goods and raw materials by manufacturers.
During the year, Indonesia posted a trade surplus every month except in July and December.
Suhariyanto warned of possible import increases as oil prices are still rising in the global market. Indonesia imports crude oil to help meet fuel demand at home as domestic production had dwindled in recent years.
However, higher imports of raw materials and capital goods are good signs that the country's labor-intensive manufacturing sector is expanding — which will help stimulate the economy.
China remained Indonesia's biggest trading partner in 2017, buying up 13.94 percent of the country's exports and delivering 26.79 percent of its imports, followed by Japan.