PHL officials trained on trade negotiations

The Department of Trade and Industry’s Foreign Trade Service Corps (FTSC) in line with World Trade Organization Technical Assistance and Capacity Building (WTO-TACB) program hones Philippine officials’ trade negotiations skills through a week-long course on trade negotiations entitled “Trade Negotiations Simulation Skills” (TNSS) last June 6-10 at the Philippine Trade Training Center, Pasay City.

Participated in by various government officials involved in different trade negotiations, the TNSS was one of the initiatives of Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) in Geneva, Switzerland which aims to capacitate Philippine representatives when it comes to trade negotiations and dialogues.

The 54 participants from various organizations were divided into 6 teams comprised of a minister and several chief negotiators. Special Trade Representatives of various FTSC posts played the role of a minister while technical experts of key DTI units and line agencies served as chief negotiators. The teams “negotiated” markets access and modalities under goods, agriculture, services and rules.

PHL hosts 21st AMEICC meeting

Last month, Philippines hosted the 21st Meeting of the ASEAN Economic Ministers-Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan Economic and Industrial Cooperation Committee’s (AMEICC) Working Group on Chemical Industry (WG-CI) to identify best practices in chemicals regulation as well as lock-in concrete interventions needed to address chemical safety issues and promote chemical safety management.

The chemicals industry is one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the country with revenues reaching PHP 330 billion in 2009. It involves the manufacture of basic chemicals, rubber products, plastic products and other chemicals. The industry has extensive links with other industries including agriculture/agribusiness, automotive, cement, creative, construction, energy, fishing, health, housing, and pharmaceuticals industries.

DTI also announced to delegates of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states and Japan that the Philippines’ chemical industry has experienced a strong, sustained, and double digit growth of 16.5 percent in 2015, surpassing its 2014 growth rate of 4.9 percent.

BIMP-EAGA and NT to conduct supply chain study

Ministers and high-level officials from the Brunei Darussalam Indonesia Malaysia the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) and Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) expressed support to the full implementation of a supply chain study aimed to assess interregional trade between the sub-region and the Australian territory.

At the recently concluded 4th Darwin Dialogue held last April 27, 2016 at the Darwin Convention Centre in Australia, the ministers and senior officials of the two areas welcomed the preparation of a preliminary scoping report of a supply chain study. The study is designed to benchmark current goods and supply channels from BIMP-EAGA into and out of Australia.

In a joint-statement released during the dialogue, the ministers and senior officials lauded the efforts in identifying potential regional and global supply chain opportunities that promote inclusive growth within EAGA and NT.

He explained that the supply chain study supports initiatives under the Plan of Action for BIMP-EAGA and Northern Territory Cooperation for 2016-2020 which identified priority areas of cooperation which include education, trade and investment, tourism, agriculture, connectivity, and health.

DTI holds RCEP and AHKFTA consultation

DTI will consult stakeholders on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the ASEAN – Hong Kong, China FTA (AHKFTA).

The proposed RCEP, which is composed of ASEAN and its dialogue partners (Australia, New Zealand, India, Korea, Japan and China), accounts for nearly30 percent of the world’s trade, and is projected to have a combined gross domestic product of about $21.2 trillion.

On the other hand, AHKFTA, which refers to ASEAN’s engagement with Hong Kong, China, offers the Philippines market access to an estimated 60 million tourists a year.

The RCEP and AHKFTA consultations fall under the One Country, One Voice (OCOV) program, the government’s consultative mechanism for stakeholder participation in trade policy formulation. OCOV, launched by the DTI in 2010, engages stakeholders to identify policy gaps and relevant interventions and support the development of government’s positions and appropriate strategies for negotiating current and possible future trade engagements.

5th PH-EFTA FTA negotiations concluded

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA), composed of member economies Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland, concluded its 5th round of negotiations with the Philippines earlier this month. Prior to the negotiations, the DTI conducted eight consultations on a possible PHL-EFTA free trade agreement (FTA).

Usec. Rodolfo said that, with the nearing conclusion of the FTA negotiations, the government is developing a work program that will encourage and promote utilization of the free trade agreement so Philippine industries and sectors will be able to benefit from the opportunities and potential of the PH-EFTA FTA.

In 2014, the top Philippine exports to the EFTA Member States include gold in semi-manufactured forms, digital monolithic integrated circuits, aircraft parts, printed circuits, artificial teeth, and silver. On the other hand, Philippine imports from EFTA include medicaments, diagnostic or laboratory reagents, parts of airplanes or helicopters and wrist-watches.

PHL exports to EU up by 27%

PHL exports to the European Union (EU), under the Generalized System of Preferences Plus (EU-GSP+), increased by 27%.

Under the EU-GSP+, the Philippines can export 6,274 eligible products duty-free access to the EU market. Prior to December 2014, the Philippines was covered by the regular EU-GSP which provides zero duty to only 2,442 products and reduced tariffs for 3,767 products. The Philippines was granted beneficiary country status under the EU-GSP+ in December 2014.

PHL pushing for WTO TFA ratification

Philippine products and services are bound to reach an even wider international market once the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) is ratified.

The WTO TFA, a key component of the Doha Development Agenda, aims to speed up the movement, release, and clearance of goods across borders. The agreement includes provisions for advance rulings and pre-arrival processing, the use of electronic payment and promotion of the use a single window, provisions for customs cooperation and coordination, and reduced documents and formalities with common customs standards.

Negotiations on the agreement started in 2004 and will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO members have completed their domestic ratification process.To ratify the WTO TFA, the Philippines will submit its Instrument of Acceptance signed by President Benigno Aquino III to the WTO through its Philippine Mission in Geneva.

The TFA is also consistent with customs reform initiatives in other international fora such as the World Customs Organization (WCO), Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) Trade Facilitation Action Plans and activities of its Sub-Committee on Customs Procedures, and ASEAN trade facilitation initiatives.Philippine reforms are currently underway through the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) now pending ratification in Congress.

The CMTA adopts trade facilitation measures that will expedite import and export clearance. This legislation will improve customs services through a simplified, secured, and harmonized cargo clearance process. The CMTA addresses, as well, the country’s international trade commitments and deals with transparency and accountability issues in the Bureau of Customs (BoC).

DTI Undersecretary for Industry Development Dr. Ceferino S. Rodolfo said that the TFA will significantly benefit MSMEs since the implementation of rational, efficient, and simple rules would encouragethem toparticipate more actively in international trade.

“Our MSMEs can now easily export goods and finished products as well as import intermediate goods which will serve as industry inputs for processing and re-export, fully integrating our industries into the Global Value Chain (GVC). This will result into a spill over effect to other industries, thus generating jobs, disseminating upgraded technology, and advancing the skills and capability of our local entrepreneurs,” Rodolfo said.

The Philippines serves a crucial processing link along the GVC chain, both as a source and destination for intermediate goods, with a 56% overall participation rate measured by share of foreign value added in total exports. The country was ranked 8th in the list of the top 25 developing economy exporters in the 2013 World Investment Report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.