Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez represented the Philippines during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 23rd Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 20-21, 2017.

Building on the theme of “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future in the Asia Pacific,” the Ministers of the 21 economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) exchanged views on pressing trade and investment issues, focusing on financial inclusion, market access, job generation, the digital economy and e-commerce.

Advocate of Global MSMEs

A staunch advocate of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and their internationalization, Sec. Lopez highlighted the need to enhance trade facilitation and create an enabling business environment. He commented that initiatives that drive innovation and entrepreneurship enable MSMEs to participate in international trade.

On the APEC MSME Marketplace, he cited the importance of this Philippine initiative of developing an online platform on information on trade regulations, market opportunities, tools and resources to be launched during the APEC SME Ministerial Meeting in September 2017.

The trade chief also showcased programs such as the Shared Services Facilities, Pondo Para sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso and Go Lokal! to help MSMEs, remarking that any kind of growth will not be meaningful if it is not inclusive.

“Trade costs matter.” Highlighting the importance of APEC economies working together to bring costs down, Sec. Lopez said that non-tariff measures (NTMs) increase the time and cost of doing business setting off the benefits of tariff liberalization and improvements in logistics and connectivity and emphasized the need to reduce them.

Telling the ‘APEC Story’

“On open trade, there are real evidence of positive economic impact on our economies,” said Sec. Lopez, adding that “we must persist in communicating these benefits to all our stakeholders, in addition to ensuring that the inclusive agenda here in APEC continues.”

He also shared the “Build, Build, Build” project under President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Dutertenomics, the Administration’s catch-up program for much-needed infrastructure requirements. These efforts are aimed at improving connectivity through infrastructure to support the flow of goods, information and people in the Philippines.

Sec. Lopez also stated that the Philippines as host of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) looks forward to the substantial conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2017. During the meeting, many Ministers shared the view that RCEP is a pathway of deepening regional economic integration.

APEC moving forward

As APEC redoubles its efforts to achieve the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment by 2020, the trade chief stressed the importance of continued regional cooperation and policy reforms to ensure seamless markets.

He mentioned the need to continue APEC’s inclusiveness agenda even beyond 2020, making sure that trade works for all, big or small. Mainstreaming women, youth and other sector of the economy must also be included.

Finally, Sec. Lopez emphasized that trade must not only be free and open, but also fair and reciprocal.