ABAC Philippines welcomes the successful completion of the Philippines’ Trade Policy Review (TPR) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) held last 26-28 March in Geneva, Switzerland.
“The Philippines is on the road towards achieving inclusive globalization, where no one is left behind.”
This was the message of the Philippine contingent led by Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo of the Department of Trade and Industry as he presented the progress and plans of the country’s economic and trade policies. The review, the fifth for the Philippines, looked at the trade policy regime of the country from its last assessment in 2012 up to 2017.
“The Philippines has been steadfast in implementing reforms—involving amendment of decades old legislations. Amidst a sluggish global economy, our economy has grown and has become more resilient. Moving forward, the Philippines will not only continue but will further accelerate and deepen policy reforms,” said Undersecretary Rodolfo in his opening remarks before the WTO.
ABAC Philippines lauds the milestones presented in the TPR where the Philippines achieved its highest average six-year GDP growth in over forty years at 6.6%. The country also recorded a significant decline in poverty incidence to 21.6% from over 25% in 2012.
Among the critical trade and investment policy reforms and programs implemented during the review period include the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act in 2016 and the Philippine Competition Act in 2015. The banking and logistics sectors were also liberalized with the passage of laws allowing the full entry and operation of foreign banks and for foreign vessels to transport and co-load foreign cargoes for domestic transshipments.
In the area of international cooperation, the Philippines ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2016. More recently, the Philippines-European Free Trade Association Free Trade Agreement was ratified in March. Also early this year, the Philippines-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was likewise ratified.
The WTO meanwhile acknowledged the Philippines’ strategy through its 2017-2022 Development Plan that focuses on making the economy more competitive, underpinned by sound regulatory practices and competition policy, and open services markets. It also observed that services constitute the most important sector in terms of contribution to GDP, and is also the fastest growing export sector.
“The positive feedback and outcome of our country’s most recent TPR shows the Philippines’ economic openness and determination to contribute its share to global growth. It also gives us a stronger position to advocate for greater reciprocity for our local products and services to gain more access to APEC markets,” said ABAC member Lance Gokongwei.
These developments are consistent with the council’s goal of inclusive globalization. During the APEC CEO Summit last November 2017 in Da Nang, Viet Nam, President Rodrigo Duterte challenged APEC Leaders to address globalization and for the business community to pursue shared economic prosperity. He said that APEC will only be relevant if prosperity is shared by all.
For its part, ABAC Philippines has begun outlining work programs on issues relevant to trade facilitation, in particular, in the area of services and non-tariff barriers (NTBs).
On services, the Council seeks to facilitate coordinated multi-sectoral efforts to address challenges towards improved competitiveness of the Philippine services industry. This is important in achieving its goal of developing quality workforces for the next 20 years.
With regard to NTBs, Mr. Gokongwei, who also leads the ABAC Philippines’ NTB work program, said that approaches to NTMs require constant engagement with the private sector. “We can help gather views from industry players and stakeholders on the impact of NTMs/NTBs on identified local products to provide inputs to the Philippine government’s trade policies. Addressing these NTMs will greatly contribute to our inclusive growth agenda through improved trade and investment performance,” added Mr. Gokongwei.
Efforts towards achieving inclusive globalization are also undertaken in the regional platform. In 2016, ABAC developed WTO-consistent principles to ensure NTMs do not become barriers. Such measures should be developed in a transparent and consultative manner. They should be coherent and non-discriminatory, and based on sound science or closely aligned with international norms. The application of NTMs should also be timely, coherent and predictable. The measures should be the least-trade restrictive that will meet legitimate outcomes.
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