Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez revealed year-long plans that aim to complement and heighten the impact of the country’s strategic priorities and deliverables for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), following DTI’s chairmanship of the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) meeting and the ASEAN’s Committee on Business and Investment Promotion (CBIP). 

Speaking at the formal launch of the ASEAN 2017 Business and Investment Program on 24 January, Sec. Lopez expressed confidence on ASEAN as an economic powerhouse, citing that the region is now the third largest market in the world with over 620 million people, the third largest economy in Asia, and the seventh largest economy in the world with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 2.3 trillion dollars.

He also called on maximizing the opportunities and benefits from the AEC, and reiterated the four pillars of AEC as landscape for the dialogue with ASEAN partners in realizing the ASEAN 2025, starting with the 23rd AEM Retreat.

AEC’s four pillars are the establishment of a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development, and a region fully integrated into global economy.

This will solidify our priorities for the 50th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM), the 49th AEM Meeting and the Leaders’ Summit, to be chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte, according to him.

“As we host the ASEAN 2017 Summit, the Philippines is one with the ASEAN in increasing trade and investments in the region; in integrating micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the digital economy for greater access to trade information, global market and value chain, and finance, promoting youth and women entrepreneurship; and in increasing cooperation within the region and connectivity to the rest of the world,” Sec. Lopez said.

The trade chief said that coinciding with the Leaders’ Summit in April is the holding of an ASEAN MSMEs-Mentors Conference, bringing together ASEAN mentors who can equip ASEAN local community enablers with the necessary information on access to capital, markets, ASEAN industries and innovation.

An ASEAN Creative Cities Forum and Exhibit will also be held, showcasing initiatives of 10 ASEAN Member States (AMS) in making culture and creativity a driving force for sustainable development and urban regeneration, according to Sec. Lopez.

“Taste ASEAN as the Philippines holds International Food Exposition (IFEX) in May. IFEX will showcase the best food brands from Southeast Asia and its partner countries,” he said, adding that DTI’s aim is to increase ASEAN SME participation in the global production and value chains, through participation of 10 AMS and ASEAN Dialogue Partners (DPs) in the country’s biggest international trade exhibition on food and food-related products.

Aside from these, an ASEAN Women’s Business Conference in August will be held to provide strategic dialogue among ASEAN, the private sector and DPs in addressing issues and concerns on women entrepreneurship, focusing on market access and finance and the identification of innovative business models which supports the ASEAN’s vision of a stronger, more inclusive, and integrated economic community.

In September, Sec. Lopez said that an Inclusive Business Summit, emphasizing the role of the government in sharing best practices on implementing inclusive business strategies and in recognizing exemplary inclusive business models through the ASEAN Inclusive Business Awards.

Meanwhile, the 2nd  ASEAN Young Entrepreneurs Carnival will strengthen the network among young entrepreneurs from ASEAN and other countries capturing the fast-paced developments on key sectors such as food, agriculture, information technology, logistics, business process outsourcing, start-ups, and Internet of Things (IOT).  Through the formal launch of ASEAN Young Entrepreneurs Association (AYEA) Charter, Sec. Lopez hoped to commit young entrepreneur towards strengthened ties, cooperation and linkages.

In October, driven by the goal to promote innovation across the ASEAN region, DTI will spearhead the annual Slingshot event, helping create a regional network of ASEAN ecosystem players including startups, investors, incubators, mentors, academe, co-working spaces, and industry experts. 

“It shall showcase investment-ready startups for potential local and international investors as well as facilitate easy access of information between governments running start-up development programs in the region,” he said.

Before the year closes, another MSME Summit will be held, featuring inspiring MSMEs including those that have benefited from the mentoring program of the Philippines and other AMS. The Summit, which is in conjunction with the concluding ASEAN Leader’s Summit, will be an occasion to formally introduce the establishment of the ASEAN Mentors Network, an organization of mentors from AMS.

“We shall work hand-in-hand in creating paths that will lead our people and our communities towards a truly inclusive, innovation-led shared prosperity,” Sec. Lopez concluded.