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Support and strengthen WTO, mitigate impact of climate change – ABAC PH

7 August – APEC Business Advisory Council Philippines (ABAC PH) echoed the strong support for the World Trade Organization (WTO) and stressed the importance of mitigating the impact of climate change especially on the most vulnerable communities. These issues were highlighted by the region’s business leaders in the third ABAC meeting held last June 22-25 in Hangzhou, China.

Established in 1995, the WTO sets the global rules of trade. This multilateral trading system provides for a more predictable and competitive international business environment. Through this mechanism, economies such as the Philippines can play on a level playing field as other more developed economies.

“The common trading framework provided by the WTO allows Philippine products to compete fairly in the global market. While it is not perfect, we should work to strengthen and improve the system, rather than undermine it,” according to ABAC Philippines chair Tomas Alcantara.

The expansion of world trade in recent decades has lifted over a billion people out of poverty. In the APEC region, extreme poverty rate fell sharply to 1.8% in 2015 from 41.7% in 1990, while poverty rate dropped to 13.4% from 63.1% over the same period.

For ABAC 2019 chair Richard Von Appen of ABAC Chile, reforming the WTO and in particular, resolving the crisis in its dispute settlement system is one strong message the Council will deliver to APEC Leaders in this year’s annual dialogue that will be held in Santiago in November. “We also need to reform the rules to make sure that the WTO remains relevant and fit for purpose – including to ensure that modern business models can flourish, and that women and MSMEs can access the opportunities and benefits of the global economy,” he added.

ABAC PH meanwhile underscored that the challenge for APEC is not only making economic growth inclusive, but also sustainable. As such, Alcantara shared, “as APEC looks forward to a new vision beyond Bogor Goals – of free and open trade and investment in the region by 2020 – sustainability, most crucially addressing climate change is one of ABAC’s priority.”

Climate change must be immediately addressed, citing serious risks and repercussions not only for business, but also for the rest of society. The world is getting increasing number of natural disasters, seventy percent (70%) of which occur in the Asia-Pacific. In the Philippines alone, Typhoon Ompong (International name: Mangkhut), considered as the strongest typhoon in 2018 that also wreaked havoc in Guam, Hong Kong and Southern China, brought US$623 million in damages to public infrastructure and agriculture. The strongest, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) landed in 2013 cost over US$1.85 billion in damages and left more than 7,000 dead.

“There are a number of innovative solutions to address the impact of climate change. With the Philippines’ vulnerability to natural disasters, the time to act is now. Our business sector has been working with the government and stakeholders to support a resilient economy,” said ABAC member Guillermo Luz, who is also the Chief Resilience Officer of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation.

Luz added that collective action in the international level is critical.

 “Collaboration is key to the success of our efforts. APEC and ABAC is best positioned to be a forum for sharing of technologies and best-practices, as well as financing and capacity-building measures especially for the developing economies,” he said. Mr Alcantara further added that businesses play a critical role in developing solutions to address climate change and helping transition to a sustainable, resilient and lower-carbon economy for the present and the future.

These twin priorities are set in the bigger picture of leveraging the digital economy, which is a key priority of ABAC PH. The advisory council’s work pushes for the harnessing of new digital technologies to enable more MSMEs engage successfully in value chains and developing a future-ready workforce.

ABAC PH, climate change, WTO