by Magnolia M. Uy / Commercial Attaché Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the World Trade Organization, Philippine Trade and Investment Center Geneva

Published in Business Mirror

25 July 2017

PHILIPPINE micro- small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) that want to expand their market overseas—especially in highly developed markets, such as Switzerland, the European Union (EU) and the US but are uncertain on how to proceed—can now tap the expertise and experience of international trade lawyers for free.

Sidley Austin Llp., an international law firm, launched the Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Program to help poor, rural and disadvantaged communities by providing free legal support to MSMEs and market-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Through technical guidance and hand-holding, MSMEs can benefit from, among others, legal-trade advice on market-access requirements, as well as better understanding intellectual property rights and patents for innovative ideas.

For many MSMEs around the world, legal barriers are among the key hindrances to trade. However, since the program’s introduction in 2012, over 120 MSMEs from more than 30 countries have benefitted. These include an Indonesian chocolate producer overcoming challenges in the EU market because its formula has to meet EU’s minimum cocoa requirement; shea producers unable to sell products containing shea to Indian buyers because of regulatory restrictions; and an African clean-cook stove enterprise entangled in an intellectual property dispute with a Chinese company.

Further, the program works toward enabling more MSMEs in developing countries to participate in e-commerce by helping them address constraints. E-commerce has always been touted as a key enabler for MSMEs worldwide to participate in global trade. However, it entails legal requirements in order to be realized. For instance, it is essential to have an effective privacy policy that protects producers and buyers during the online transaction; to carry out online business transactions on the basis of enforceable and internationally recognized buyer-seller contracts; and as intellectual property must be protected, products must also comply with market-access requirements.

The Department of Trade and Industry, through The Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) in Geneva, can facilitate the introduction and engagement of eligible Philippine MSMEs with the proponent. Applications for pro bono support are reviewed on a case-by-case basis through the following criteria:

  • Located in or have primary operations in a developing country in Africa, Asia, Central and South America or the Caribbean;
  • Committed to delivering a positive social impact;
  • Have established a presence in the local market (i.e., beyond start-up);
  • Agree to secure local counsel; and
  • Are unable to afford or otherwise access international legal services.


For more information, you can get in touch with the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Geneva, Switzerland, at +41-22-9097900/ 7906/7915/7917 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. PTIC Geneva is led by our commercial attaches, TSO Maggie Uy and TSO Ella Burgos, and is located at the Philippine Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organization at Rue de Lausanne 80, 1902 Geneva.

By Magnolia Uy / Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the WTO, Philippine Trade and Investment Center-Geneva

ACCESSING relevant information on product requirements in export markets can be a huge challenge, especially for micro-, small- and  medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Thus, a new Web-based alert system designed to help government agencies and MSMEs to receive the latest information on regulatory requirements in various markets was tackled during “Usapang Exports” last December. More than 50 Philippine exporters participated in the virtual training delivered through video-conference that was  coorganized by the Philippine Investment Center-Geneva and the Export Marketing Bureau (EMB), in coordination with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The system, known as ePing, allows access to WTO members’ notifications of TBT and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. It also facilitates dialogue among the public and private sectors in addressing potential trade problems at an early stage. Users of ePing will be able to easily keep up to date with notifications affecting foreign markets and products of particular interest to them.

The publicly accessible online tool is available at www.epingalert.orgThrough a simple registration page, users can personalize the alerts regarding SPS and TBT notifications covering specific products or markets of interest to them. In addition, it offers an Enquiry Point Management Tool to facilitate domestic, as well as international, information sharing and discussion. The system helps users track, consult and comment on measures that are being developed and/or adapt as necessary to changing regulatory conditions.

Each year, the WTO receives more than 3,500 TBT and SPS notifications proposing new measures that may affect international trade. Consequently, the need to comply with different foreign technical regulations and standards involves significant costs for producers and exporters. By improving access to this information, ePing will help avoid disruptions caused by these measures.

With the high interest received from the participants, the ePing alert system will become part of the Department of Trade and Industry’s “Doing Business in Free Trade Agreement” Programme implemented by the Export Manufacturing Bureau.

Original publication:

The Philippines, through Department of Trade and Industry’s Board of Investments (BOI) Governor Lucita Reyes, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines (SEIPI) President Danilo Lachica and Ionics Vice-President for Operations Mr. Jay Chavez, recently participated at the celebration of World Trade Organization’s 20th Information Technology Agreement (ITA) Symposium held on 27-28 June in Geneva, Switzerland.

PH official participants at the 20th ITA in WTO. In photo (from left to right): SEIPI President Danilo Lachica, Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC)-Geneva Commercial Attaché Magnolia Uy, Board of Investments (BOI) Governor Lucita Reyes and Ionics Vice President for Operations Jay Chavez.  

According to Magnolia Uy, DTI Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Geneva (PTIC-Geneva), the event allowed for the member countries to highlight ITA’s role of providing households and domestic businesses access to more affordable and higher-quality Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) through tariffs elimination on hundreds of ICT products.

The Philippines, as one of the 82 signatories of ITA, has benefited from the initial ITA signed in 1996 and its expansion of list in 2015. According to the Philippines’ chief ITA negotiator and Board of Investment Governor Lucita Reyes, the country’s ITA membership helped lower prices for key ICT hardware inputs that the BPO industry depends upon. At present, the country’s ICT services exports account for roughly 70% of total services exports while the ICT goods exports account for more than 35% of total exported goods.

In terms of ICT goods exports, Lachica added that the Philippine semiconductor and electronics industry continues to grow at a steady rate, ranking as the 17th largest exporter of ICT products in the world valued at approximately USD 24 billion (out of USD 29 billion total electronics exports).

However, according to Ionics Vice-President for Operations Jay Chavez, to sustain the demand of ICT services enterprises for ICT products, it is imperative for the Philippines to move up the value chain for ICT products by engaging in products and systems design and by taking manufacturing to the next level through the implementation of smart factory and Industry 4.0 technologies.

The ITA was finalized during the 1996 WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong while the Philippines became a signatory to the Agreement in 1997. In 2012, members recognized that technological innovation had advanced to such an extent that many new categories of IT products were not covered by the existing agreement. As negotiations to expand the coverage of the Agreement began in 2012, the ITA expansion agreement (ITA-2) was concluded during the 2015 WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi. The Philippines availed of the flexibilities of extended staging of tariff reductions of the Agreement. Executive Order (EO) 21 that mandates the Philippines ITA commitment will enter into force on 1 July 2017.

WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo opened the Symposium and noted how exports in the products covered by the original Agreement tripled from USD 549 billion in 1996 to approximately USD 1.7 trillion in 2015 representing an annual growth rate of 6%.

At present, ITA products account for a remarkable 15% of all global manufacturing exports. ITA membership also increased from 29 WTO members in 1996 to 82 today, accounting for over 97% of global ICT trade.

THE “Slow Food” movement in Switzerland has progressed into high gear recently with books and films raising awareness of the dangers of a fast-food diet for humans and the planet. Two leading retailers, Migros and Coop, played a key role in the Slow Food movement since the early 1990s when they first placed organic products on their shelves. It was a decision that proved to be a breakthrough for chemical-free foods, putting them for the first time on the plates of the average Swiss family.

Slow Food began in Italy in 1986 with the foundation of its forerunner organization, Arcigola, to resist the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish steps in Rome. The Slow Food organization spawned by the movement has expanded and now has over 100,000 members with chapters in over 132 countries.

According to the international Slow Food organization, everyone has “the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture. We believe the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work”.

The Philippines can take advantage of the Slow Food Trend in the following aspects:

  1. Non-GMO Foods/Organic food and fair trade certifications—About 80 percent of the world’s chocolate is organic by default. Most farmers can’t afford chemical applications, and it’s not efficient for the crop.
  2. Dehydrated Foods—Dehydrated foods make for convenient, healthier, less sugary snacking and help preserve foods and concentrate their flavors. Philippine products: dried fruits and nuts, seaweed;
  3. Gluten-Free Flours—Grain-free cooking and baking is trending and very popular in Paleo circles, so the demand for these flours is on the rise. Philippine products: mango flour, coconut flour;
  4. Single origin food—Single-origin food is food products grown within a single-known geographic origin. Sometimes, this is a single farm, or a specific collection of crops from a single country, such as cacao, coffee and tea; and
  5. Flavors from Asia—The old days of bland meat and potatoes are gone, as Swiss demographics and palates are shifting, and taste buds are exploring these two exotic continents: Asia and Africa. The Swiss are becoming more open to hotter spices, new textures and taste, and a greater variety of ethnic food.

For more information, you can get in touch with the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Geneva, Switzerland, at +41.22.9097900 / 7906/7915/7917 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.PTIC Geneva is led by our commercial attaches, TSO Maggie Uy and TSO Ella Burgos, and is located at the Philippine Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organization at Rue de Lausanne 80, 1902 Geneva.

Original publication:

The Philippines has successfully completed the ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and has deposited its Instrument of Acceptance to the World Trade Organization (WTO) through the Philippine Permanent Mission to the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland on 27 October 2016.

Adopted at the WTO's 2013 Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, the TFA contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods. It also includes measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. Provisions on technical assistance and capacity building are also included to help countries implement the Agreement.

The TFA is the first multilateral trade agreement to be concluded since the establishment of the WTO in 1995. Once it enters into force, the Agreement is expected to reduce total trade costs by more than 14 percent for low-income countries, more than 15 percent for lower-middle countries, and more than 13 percent for upper middle-income countries by streamlining the flow of trade across borders.

The commitments of developing and least-developed countries in the Agreement are linked directly to their capacity to implement the TFA. On 31 July 2014, the Philippines submitted its Category A notification to the WTO indicating which provisions of the TFA it intends to implement upon entry into force of the Agreement. As a developing country, the Philippines can choose which commitments to prioritize, and the implementation can be on a staggered basis.

“The Philippines finds great value on the implementation of the TFA – not just for the big businesses – but also for local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with the prospects of lowering trade costs and streamlining border procedures, which will enable them to participate more actively in international trade,” said Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez added that the TFA will also boost the country’s economic growth by supporting its integration into the global economy.

According to the World Trade Report released on 26 October 2015, implementation of the WTO TFA has the potential to increase global merchandise exports by up to $1 trillion per annum. The Report also found that developing countries will benefit significantly from the TFA, capturing more than half of the available gains.

The Philippines is the 95th WTO member to accept the TFA which will enter into force once two-thirds (110 out of 164 Members) of the WTO's membership accepts the Agreement.

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