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PH proposes 'Boracay Action Plan' for APEC.

Boracay Island--The Philippines has proposed an initiative that aims to put micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) at the front and center of global and regional trade, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

Trade Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal Jr., said the Philippines has made significant progress in its push for the "Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs" at the recently concluded second APEC Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM2).

The Manila-led initiative calls for specific, concrete and practical interventions that APEC economies can implement to provide MSMEs wider opportunities to integrate into global or regional trade, either through global value chains or as direct exporters of finished goods and services.

"There is widespread support for the Boracay Action Agenda in APEC. It is consistent with our collective vision to strengthen the foundation for balanced, sustained and inclusive growth in the Asia-Pacific region," Cristobal said.

"APEC Senior Officials and their technical teams are working hard to ensure that the Action Agenda will be supported by all members of APEC," he added.

For 10 days, Senior Officials from the 21 member economies discussed existing commitments and deliverables on trade, investments, and economic and technical cooperation.

Throughout the meetings, the Philippines seized the opportunity to press for greater participation of MSMEs by building on each technical working group's key priorities.

The Philippines also emphasized vast opportunities for MSMEs in increasingly open and integrated markets, and in providing vital support and complementation to larger enterprises.

It can be recalled that during the Informal Senior Officials Meeting held in November last year, the Philippines announced that one of its priorities will focus on MSME participation in regional and global markets.

Subsequently, during the first Senior Officials Meeting (SOM1) in Clark in February, the Philippines presented proposals to support the mainstreaming of artisanal micro and small enterprises in international trade where it obtained the commitment from the Senior Officials to work towards the adoption of initiatives in the action agenda.

"The Senior Officials of the member economies support the objectives and goals of the action agenda, and we are working closely with all economies to refine the initiatives and programs to carry this through," Trade Assistant Secretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said.

As a result of the Philippines' continuous efforts, various working groups such as the Tourism Working Group (TWG) and the Policy Partnership in Science & Technology and Innovation (PPSTI), have agreed to pursue policies and initiatives in support of MSMEs.

The country is collaborating with Australia, Canada, Korea, and Malaysia to develop the work stream on MSMEs in the automotive global value chains.

"We remain upbeat and optimistic that the goals, objectives and priority actions of the Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs will be supported by all economies in time for the meeting of the Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT)," Rodolfo said.

Meanwhile, more policy reforms are needed to help small companies in Asia-Pacific region directly enter the overseas market and global values chains, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) said.

Ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade ministers meetings, Eduardo Pedrosa, PECC secretary general identified regulatory measures such as telecoms, finance and transport as the top impediments to trade.

Pedrosa said these regulatory measures were also considered the third highest trade issue priority for APEC to address.

Aside from regulators, he also cited issues on compliance with the rules of origin that policymakers need to resolve.

Pedrosa explained being an effective exporter also requires being an efficient importer as having high barriers to trade is the worst thing an economy can do if it wants to benefit from trade.

"Improving services efficiency is critical to increase competitiveness across all parts of the economy -- agriculture, manufacturing and services," Padrosa said.

"For example, to improve farmers' incomes there is a need for efficient transportation, storage, water provision and other services that they use," he added.

Current there several ongoing free-trade negotiations in the Asia-Pacific, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

TPP and RCEP were seen as the top priority for achieving an eventual Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) across the region.

In a survey conducted by the PECC, 52 percent of respondents rated the facilitation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in global value chains as a top five priority for APEC, followed by the achievements of the Bogor Goals and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

Other issues identified by respondents were services sector reforms and liberalization, the design of trade policy in response to global value chains and how economies can move to upgrade their participation in global value chains

For Southeast Asian respondents, the top priority was capacity building programs to ensure that APEC member economies can meet the standards of a potential FTAAP.

"This should be the focus of APEC work in this area so all regional economies can benefit from the process," Pedrosa said.

While the region is moving towards a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, the report suggested that there is a need to think carefully about design citing low utilization of existing agreements.

Over 77 percent of respondents rated complex rules of origin as being important or very important in terms of its impact on the ability of businesses to use regional and free trade agreements.

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Title Annotation:Business News
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:May 23, 2015
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