DETROIT, USA – In a special session ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) Meeting, Ambassador Katherine Tai, as the US Trade Representative and APEC 2023 MRT Chair, hosted a dialogue among APEC Trade Ministers and prominent labor leaders to discuss the vital link between trade policy and upholding workers’ rights.  The Philippines was represented by Trade and Industry Secretary Fred Pascual.

The dialogue focused on the submission that trade policy must be workers-centric as workers play an important role in fostering economic growth and development in a country. Notwithstanding, it was observed that there is still a growing inequality when it comes to workers’ welfare vis-a-vis business growth. Thus, the challenge posed in the discussion was how to shape a trade and investment model that will ensure the protection of workers’ rights as economies work towards socio-economic development.

When asked for a comment about incorporating labor as an element of trade policy, Secretary Pascual emphasized that “A strong workforce promotes robust trade and a robust trade should promote a strong workforce. Thus, it is important to keep trade open and the workforce empowered”.

Secretary Pascual further explained that while there may be arguments raised for and against the interface of labor and trade policies, the fact remains that the stability that they bring to the economy far outweighs any perceived adverse concerns. He also stressed that in case of disruption in global supply chains, the workers and their families are the ones immediately affected. Also, the stability of trade and the resilience of the global supply chain also ensure the welfare of our workers and their family.

“As a matter of State policy, no less than the Constitution of the Philippines affirms labor as a primary social economic force, and that it is imperative for us to protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare,” Trade Chief Pascual added.*

Date of release: 26 May 2023