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.
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.