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Mostly held in its offices at the DTI International Building on Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati City, the DBFTA sessions seek to inform local manufacturers—especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)—wishing to venture into the export business about the benefits they can avail themselves of from the various free-trade agreements (FTAs) the Philippines has signed with its trade partners worldwide.

The sessions present the various product categories enjoying zero tariff or very low duties on products local manufacturers can produce and export to the different countries or geographical regions the country has signed FTAs with. The sessions also present the unique requirements, product needs and business opportunities each of the country’s trade partners has that local manufacturers can explore.

 Also part of the sessions are topics on product upgrade, labeling standards, documentary requirements, and programs, facilities and services the DTI-EMB has in place to help local manufacturers and service providers improve the quality and the pricing of their focused products to help them venture into the overseas markets.

At present, aside from its fta with the nine-member states of Asean, the Philippines is also a signatory to Asean’s FTA with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. It also has a bilateral agreement with Japan and recently signed an FTA with the European Free Trade Association, composed of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, which is still undergoing ratification.

In December 2014 the Philippines was granted preferential rates by the European Union under its Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) program. Last year the Philippines started to enjoy again the privileges provided for under the reinstated GSP of the US.  The Philippines is also a beneficiary of GSP tariffs from other donor-countries, including Canada.

The sessions conducted during the first three months of the year included those focusing on special product segments, like coffee products and the coconut sector, Philippine education opportunities and services they presented in an education fair in Indonesia, EU GSP+; US GSP; doing business with Canada and the US; halal food products for Muslim markets in the Philippines and abroad; nontariff measures to stimulate local interest in exporting; and doing business with Switzerland.

The DTI-EMB also hosted entrepreneurship students of the Tabaco campus of Bicol University and briefed them on the DBFTA program. The EMB-DTI also conducted an EU GSP+ session with members of an EU delegation in Central Visayas (Region 7) and visited the DTI office in Northern Mindanao (Region 10) to celebrate One Services Week.

Attending the 49 sessions were 3,009 participants representing local government units, academe, the media and 721 companies, including 290 exporters. □



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