The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is accelerating its initiatives to increase awareness and promote proper understanding of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) as well as the country’s various free trade agreements (FTAs) and preferential schemes. 

“We are increasing the frequency of our information and education drive and casting a wider net by continuing to conduct various fora and discussions in the regions. The knowledge our stakeholders, particularly micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), will gain from our initiatives will help us fully utilize our trade engagements and enhance our foothold in the regional and global market,” said Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez.

The DTI has been working with business organizations to provide entrepreneurs with knowledge on how to navigate and profit from the country’s FTAs through its Doing Business in Free Trade Areas (DBFTA) initiative. The DBTA aims to increase the utilization of FTAs and covers discussions on market opportunities, tariff reductions, rules of origin (ROO) and customs procedures.

According to Lopez, DTI’s awareness campaign will contribute to achieving industry competitiveness and sustaining inclusive growth. “It is imperative for our stakeholders to be aware, involved and globally competitive. Our aim is not just to reduce trepidation among our industry sectors, but also to enable them to participate more actively in international trade,” he said. 

From November 2010 to July 2016, the DTI conducted 964 information sessions attended by more than 100,000 participants from the private sector, academe, and other government agencies. These sessions focused on topics such as FTA, AEC, Philippine-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) European Union General System of Preferences Plus (EU-GSP+), and the United States Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

Likewise, DTI also conducts One Country, One Voice (OCOV), a trade policy consultation initiative conducted across the country which engages and involves stakeholders, particularly national agencies, local government units, business support organizations, civil society organizations, and the private sector, in the process of trade policy formulation.

Launched in 2011, OCOV seeks to obtain counsel and assessments on the Philippines’ trade objectives, priorities and necessary undertakings to arrive at rational, sound and balanced trade policies in pursuit of national development. To date, consultations were conducted in key cities in the country particularly on the country’s trade engagements with Japan, EU, and EFTA.

Through the Industry Roadmaps Localization Program and the AEC Gameplan, a multi-sector conference conducted across the regions, the Board of Investments also continues to capacitate industry players on how they can take advantage of the many opportunities in the AEC market by crafting their localized version of national industry roadmaps to achieve further competitiveness.

“Ultimately, our work to promote awareness will enhance and intensify the Philippines as a global brand that thrives both here and the global market,” concluded Lopez.