NTMs are policy measures other than ordinary customs tariffs that can potentially have an economic effect on international trade in goods, changing prices or quantities traded, or both.
On the difficulty of exporters to comply with SPS because of high fumigation costs, the group pointed to the scarcity of fumigation firms in the Philippines as one of the reasons for this. In one region, for instance, a lone fumigation company serves the whole area’s needs, and the lack of competition allows the firm to monopolize business and impose high prices.
To solve the problem, the TWG agreed to push making fumigation a more viable business in the country. The Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, which regulates fumigation operations in the country, will also be requested to map all fumigation establishments to identify gaps and spread out their presence, particularly in the countryside.
As for labeling concerns, especially on the varied requirements over language, font size, and text location, the group will work to promote greater access to information on labeling requirements of market destinations, including by tapping commercial attaches.
Other recommendations include enhancing training and guidance programs for MSMEs on correct labeling, setting up an institution to help in compliance with labeling requirements and adoption of the single-entry concept, and improving exporters’ access to official and technical translations.
There is also a need to review national technical and SPS legislations and align them with international standards.
To assist MSMEs with product testing and certification, the team intends to ask the government to fast-track negotiations on Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs), such as the ongoing talks on food, cosmetics, and drugs within the ASEAN, and ensure their effective implementation. MRAs are international pacts by which two or more countries agree to recognize one another’s conformity assessments.
The TWG also called for more training and coaching sessions for MSMEs on product quality and certification requirements including on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, an internationally recognized system for reducing the risk of safety hazards in food.
Among other proposed actions are to identify accredited testing centers in the country, locate gaps in certification services, extend the reach of halal trainings, mainstream shared service facilities, improve the capacity of laboratories for electronics research and development, and create an export development fund to provide finance assistance to exporters.
In June this year, the International Trade Center released a survey indicating that close to three-quarters of exporters and importers in the Philippines complained that non-tariff measures were a key trade barrier, with the agri-food and low-tech sectors the most affected by these regulations.□