Strike-hit VW car shipments cause Portugal November export slump

LISBON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Portuguese exports slumped nearly 9 percent in November from a year earlier and over 7 percent from the previous month after a stevedores’ strike in the port of Setubal paralysed shipments of cars from a Volkswagen plant, data showed on Wednesday.

Stevedores went on strike between Nov. 5 and Dec. 15, blocking shipments of over 20,000 cars from the Autoeuropa plant nearby and the trade figures show just how dependent Portugal is on Autoeuropa - its largest single exporter.

The National Statistics institute said car exports in November fell almost 30 percent, which, along with an increase in imports led by aircraft purchases, made the trade deficit nearly double to almost 2.1 billion euros ($2.40 billion). The INE trade data is for goods only.

Exports in the first 11 months of 2018 were still nearly 5 percent higher than in the same period of 2017, INE data showed. Portugal has relied heavily on export growth for its recovery from its 2010-14 financial and economic crisis.

But the trade deficit rose almost 20 percent in January-November to 15.5 billion euros.

Although the Setubal strike ended in a deal envisaging contracts for stevedores who previously worked under precarious conditions, stevedores’ unions in eight ports including Setubal earlier this month threatened further strikes starting from the middle of January to demand better working conditions. ($1 = 0.8737 euros) (Reporting By Andrei Khalip, editing by Axel Bugge)