DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, the Philippines’ Chief Negotiator at the WTO, announced that an inter-agency delegation headed by DTI Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo will appear before the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Policy Review Body in Geneva, Switzerland on 26 and 28 March 2018 for the Philippines Fifth Trade Policy Review.

Undersecretary Rodolfo will be joined by senior officials of the Departments of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Labor, Board of Investments, National Food Authority, Food and Drug Administration, Intellectual Property Office and the Government Procurement and Policy, as well as officers of the Philippine Mission to the WTO.

The WTO, of which the Philippines has been a member since 1995, conducts individual trade policy reviews, an exercise in which member countries’ trade and related policies are examined and evaluated at regular intervals. For developing countries like the Philippines, the review is conducted once every six years. Substantial developments that may have an impact on the global trading system are also monitored. The last Philippine review was conducted in 2012.

According to Secretary Lopez, “This fifth trade policy review will be an opportunity not only to highlight the country’s impressive economic growth but also to share critical policy reforms and aggressive infrastructure progam being undertaken by the Duterte Administration. It also signals that the Philippine government is actively engaging the international community, self-confident in the policies we are implementing.”

The meeting in Geneva will be a culmination of an intensive process that began last year with the preparation of a Report on Philippine Trade Policy by the WTO Secretariat, which was supplemented by a counterpart Philippine Government Report submitted in December 2017.

Ahead of the meeting in Geneva, 22 countries (including US, China) have submitted questions covering a wide range of trade and economic issues such as the developments in the Philippines’ tariff structure, restrictions on investments, import licensing requirements and the rice tariffication process. Some questions which were not directly related to trade were also received, such as on gender equality and visa availments.

“The review process, while allowing other WTO Members to seek clarification on our domestic policies, presented a good opportunity for national agencies to reflect internally on our trade and investment regime in the context of our commitment to the WTO and more importantly our greater objective to make trade more inclusive so that, as President Rodrigo Duterte has clearly and repeatedly articulated, no one is left behind.” Undersecretary Rodolfo concluded.♦