Sec Ramon Lopez with ANC's Karen Davila
DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez with Ms. Karen Davila of ANC.

As part of the Department’s continuing advocacy to promote greater regional integration, Secretary Ramon M. Lopez talks to Karen Davila (ANC Headstart) on the results of the recently concluded 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.

He shares the proposed free trade area between the Philippines and the United States, which should augment existing market access status for Philippine products through the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) system. Hence, a more rational approach to enhance such trade relations is to develop a free trade area (FTA) between the two economies. An FTA allows more investment to enter the domestic market, bringing in greater employment for Filipinos.

Under the ambit of globalization, Sec. Lopez reiterates the importance of ensuring a win-win situation for all economic players. Developed (bigger) economies should allow greater market access for developing or least developing countries. Notwithstanding sensitivities of some domestic sectors, it is essential that the Philippines maximizes trade relations by improving linkage with the global supply chain.

On the recently signed ASEAN-Hong Kong FTA, the Department considers Hong Kong as 1) a gateway to China, and 2) a hub for Philippine exports to other markets. Key products exported by the Philippines to Hong Kong include electronic and aeronautic products. The FTA will help increase trade relations between the two economies.

With Russia, the Philippines signed 8 bilateral agreements at the sideline of the ASEAN Summit. These include cooperation on energy, intellectual property, transport, and education.

On China, Sec. Lopez mentions the general invitation of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to have a third player for the domestic telecommunication sector. This will increase competition with existing local providers, which should result to better quality connection for consumers.

On the state of the Philippine economy, Sec. Lopez shares the 9.4% growth rate of the manufacturing sector, remarkably one of the highest performers in the region. The resurgence of this sector can be attributed to the business sector’s or investors’ continuing confidence to the administration of President Duterte, highlighting programs on infrastructure development, job generation, and national security. He calls for the improvement of the country’s production capacity and allow more exports to supply demands from outside.

Overall, on trade, Sec. Lopez highlights that the on-going negotiatons under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a major accomplishment as Parties were able to agree on a common framework. Now, through a solid ASEAN Centrality, partner economies are looking for a better middle ground.♦