Manila, Philippines – Improved trade competitiveness especially for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), comprising more than 90% of total businesses in the country and acknowledged as a vital contributor to the economy, was highlighted during the kick-off ceremony of the 3-day National Trade Facilitation workshop organized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) under the ARISE Plus Philippines project held last 4 – 6 April 2022.

ARISE Plus Philippines Technical Working Group (TWG) Chair, DTI Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty mentioned that based on Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) 2020 data, MSMEs have generated more than 5 million jobs comprising 62.66% of the country’s total employment[1]. Thus, the government must empower MSMEs, particularly those that are export-oriented by encouraging them to utilize preferential trade arrangements to expand their market reach and level the playing field. To achieve this, a two-pronged approach to capacity building for the exporters and government institutions was also emphasized.

Making good the country’s commitment to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement will help facilitate trade flows at the border, increase transparency, and harmonize export and import clearance of goods by government agencies thereby improving trade efficiency and competitiveness. In effect, these would ease trading costs for exporters and importers as well as influence commodity prices in favor of the consumers.

Among the trade agreements signed by the Philippines, he underscored that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is seen as an important tool in achieving a harmonized and improved trade facilitation mechanism, including enhanced market access, among the country’s key trading partners within and beyond the RCEP region.

“For example, the RCEP’s Rules of Origin has a single set of requirements for ASEAN and its key trading partners to enter each other’s marker under, mostly, duty free treatment. With this, it would be much easier for Philippine exporters to comply with certifications and forms and avail of preferential arrangement as they need only review and meet RCEP requirements instead of having to study and hurdle the requirements of various FTAs depending on the country they intend to export to.” Gepty said.

The ARISE Plus Philippines project is a four-year project funded by the EU aiming to improve the country’s trade performance and competitiveness to foster inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction. The Philippine MSMEs are the ultimate beneficiaries of the project, which has five (5) expected outputs, including the strengthened trade facilitation capacity to implement the Customs Modernization and Tariffs Act (CMTA) and WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. ♦

Date of Release: 11 April 2022