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AEC 2015: Gov’t, business to undertake more dialogues on integration

The Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Foreign Affairs (DFA) conducted a joint briefing and consultation meeting on the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015 and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015 Philippine Priorities with representatives from the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the ASEAN Business Advisory Councils (ASEAN-BAC).

Trade Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. provided updates to the business representatives early this week on the government’s preparations and initiatives in ensuring the country’s preparedness for the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

CRISTOBAL JR.

CRISTOBAL JR.

The forum was likewise a venue to increase awareness and understanding of the benefits and challenges of AEC 2015. He said, “Over the past two decades, tariffs across ASEAN have been gradually decreasing. Since 2010, most of the import duties in ASEAN have been at 0%. Having addressed these tariff issues, the focus now is to tackle non-tariff barriers that impede inter-ASEAN trade.”

Since January 2010, the ASEAN-6 Member States, i.e. Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand have eliminated import duties on 99.65% of trade tariff lines, while the ASEAN-4 Member States (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam) have 98.86% of their traded tariff lines reduced to 0 – 5%. As of 2010, almost all duties have been eliminated on agricultural and industrial products.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario presented the priority themes for APEC 2015 as well as the timetable their implementation. Suggested themes are regional economic integration, mainstreaming SMEs, food security and inclusive growth, among others.

Present in the consultations were business leaders from the Makati Business Club, Financial Executives Institute, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, Federation of Philippine Industries, PhilExport, Bankers Institute of the Philippines, Animation Council of the Philippines, Management Association of the Philippines, IT and Business Processing Association of the Philippines, Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Semiconductors and Electronics Industries in the Philippines. Officials from the NEDA, DOTC, DOE, DA, PMS, DOF, BOC and the Office of the President were also present and participated in the dialogue.

“We need to define our trade and economic interests in the Asia Pacific region and ASEAN, as well,” Cristobal said. “It is through sustained and constructive engagements with the private sector that will help us in identifying areas of concern in the ASEAN and APEC economies. Both are our markets for exports, raw materials, and intermediate goods as well as a source and destination of investments,” Cristobal added.

In response to Cristobal’s statement, the forum’s participants agreed to continue the dialogue among government and business through more frequent and focused discussions in areas such as energy, services, SMEs, emergency preparedness, food security, and connectivity and logistics.

Makati Business Club Chairman Ramon del Rosario Jr. said that the Philippines is currently enjoying favorable foreign investor interest and added that now is the best time to open up the economy and address remaining trade and investment restrictions such as the 40% foreign ownership in Filipino companies.

Both the APEC BAC and the ASEAN BAC are comprised of business leaders representing a diverse range of sectors including small and large enterprises in the region. The APEC BAC presents recommendations to APEC Leaders in an annual dialogue and advises APEC officials on business sector priorities and concerns. Meanwhile, the ASEAN BAC provides private sector feedback and guidance to boost ASEAN’s efforts towards economic integration and identify priority areas for consideration of the ASEAN leaders.

AEC 2015 envisions a single market and production base, a highly competitive region, a region of equitable economic development and a region fully integrated into the global economy.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Davao Region has reported that sales of its assisted micro small and medium enterprises in 2013 reached P942.78 million or 18 percent higher than its annual target of P800 million.

DTI-Davao Region Officer-in-Charge Ma. Belenda Q. Ambi said various initiatives implemented by DTI with its partners last year yielded good results that made the agency hit its annual targets.

The products that generated much of the domestic transactions include fresh and processed fruits such as: Banana, durian, mango, pineapple, and coconut; processed fish (tuna and pangasius); processed meat and vegetables; juice and beverages; handcrafted products; beauty and health; jewelry; and wood products.

Ambi revealed that the major initiatives that contributed to the increased domestic sales are the conduct of and participation in local and international trade fairs, and market facilitation.

Among the new products that showed promising potential in the domestic and export markets are chili powder, chili sauce, and chili paste produced by MSMEs in the super-typhoon Pablo-affected areas of Davao Oriental.

“Though affected by super-typhoon Pablo in 2012, these powdered chili makers have proven that we can really rise above the challenges,” Ambi said.