Thank you for the kind introduction, and my thanks to the panel chair for inviting me to speak at this important event that celebrates economic partnerships.

Multilateral cooperation is at the core of economic partnerships and the Belt and Road initiative represents an avenue by which we can strengthen this. The Philippines, and the rest of the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), acknowledge the importance our Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in relation to this effort.

In this time of post-pandemic recovery, FTAs such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) and the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China FTA, will be key in reestablishing our supply chains, and ensuring that even micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) take part in global value chains. The preferential tariffs and rules of origin that encourage regional sourcing will promote production partnerships among the RCEP countries.

These FTAs further strengthen the rules-based, transparent, and open business environment in the region. Moreover, RCEP is not limited to tariffs but also covers the areas of Investment, Trade in Services (including Financial and Telecommunications services), Intellectual Property, e-Commerce, and Competition, among others. Through this stable and predictable business environment, participating countries can encourage more investments as investors are assured that trade rules will follow what is committed under the agreement and would not be subject to volatile changes that can negatively affect their businesses.

However, for strengthened multilateral cooperation, we may need to do more to ensure that trade remains unimpeded. For the Philippines, it is important therefore to support initiatives that keep markets open and ensure the unhampered flow of essential goods and services by reducing unnecessary trade measures.

One such initiative is ASEAN’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the Implementation of non-tariff Measures (NTMs) on essential goods. It calls for ASEAN member states to refrain from introducing or maintaining trade restrictive measures on essential goods, which is instrumental to sustain a resilient supply chain by ensuring that trade in essential goods continue to be unhampered to meet the needs of ASEAN businesses as well as its citizens.

It may be useful for those part of the Belt and Road Initiative to consider a similar arrangement with ASEAN, to show our stakeholders our collective effort to ensure that supply chains remain open, regardless of the pandemic, and that essential goods remain available to our peoples.

Thank you. ♦

Date of Release: 1 September 2021