The statement was issued in response to the news that the economy last year grew by less than the government’s estimate, that

The National Statistics Institute (INE) earlier announced that gross domestic product last year is estimated to have swelled by 2.1%, or 0.7 percentage points less than in 2017 and below the government's own estimate, which was for 2.3%.

In the fourth quarter alone, GDP was 1.7% larger than a year earlier, marking a slowdown from the 2.1% year-on-year rate of the third quarter.

In a statement after this flash estimate was released, the Ministry of Finance noted that the economy has grown for 21 consecutive quarters and at a rate 0.3 points faster than the euro area as a whole, thus "converging with the euro area in two consecutive years". That, it stressed was "for the first time in the last 20 years."

On external demand, which the INE had cited as a reason for the slowdown, the ministry said that it was dragged down by the "context of greater geopolitical uncertainty", which had an "impact on the … growth of Europe's largest economies". Nevertheless, it noted, exports grew 5.3% in nominal terms.

It also noted that growth has brought increased employment and a drop in unemployment, with 110,000 jobs created in 2018 and the 73,000 fewer jobless than in December 2017.

The economy, it concluded, has "solid foundations to continue to grow and converge with Europe in the future", even against a difficult economic backdrop.

"The significant growth in investment over the past few years, the stabilisation of the financial sector, the rebalancing of external accounts and the progress achieved in the structural consolidation of public accounts constitute solid pillars for economic growth in the coming years," the statement says.

Earlier, the minister of economy, Pedro Siza Vieira, said that a strike by dockworkers at the port of Setúbal in November and December may have been to blame for part of last year’s slowdown.

The government's official estimate of 2.3% GDP growth in 2018 had been more optimistic than that of the European Commission, for 2.1%, and of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), both of which had estimated 2.2%.