The Foreign Trade Service Officers successfully conducted their regional planning consecutively held from 03-13 December 2018 to discuss and review strategies in promoting Trabaho, Negosyo, Kabuhayan (TNK) goes Global program for overseas Filipinos, Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP), and the country’s Investment Priorities Plan to improve the Philippines’ trade relations and increase investments for the year 2019 onward, among others.

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Date of Release: December 2018

Geneva, Switzerland – Department of Trade and Industry’s Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) – Geneva tested the cadmium level of Philippine cacao beans and the results are encouraging! 
“Davao-sourced fermented cacao beans have low cadmium level that is well within the acceptable values, providing a big opportunity for Filipino cacao farmers,” said Michiel Hendriksz, Executive Director of FarmStrong Foundation. 
The test was made in light of the European Union’s (EU) new limits on the cadmium levels in cocoa products by 1 January 2019 (EU No 488/2014) that could pose a serious threat to many smallholder cacao farmers, and present a challenge to chocolate producers. 
“While Switzerland is not part of the EU, it adopts the EU General Food Law and exports majority of its chocolate production to the EU. Swiss consumers also have the highest per capita rate of chocolate consumption worldwide,” according to Mr Jean-Benoit Charrin, Director of Operations of FarmStrong Foundation. 
Cadmium is a heavy metal found both through natural occurrence and from industrial and agricultural resources. The maximum levels for cadmium in food have existed in EU legislation since 2001. Thus, to reduce exposure levels to the metal in certain food groups where exposure is highest or where the consumer groups were most vulnerable, new recommendations for maximum exposure levels in a range of infant products and cocoa-based products were released. Three maximum levels have been set for chocolate, where the strictest maximum levels apply to chocolate varieties most eaten by children, while a maximum level is also set for cocoa powder destined for direct consumption.
From 1 January 2019:
• Milk chocolate with below 30% total dry cocoa solids contain no more than 0.10 mg/kg wet weight of cadmium
• Chocolate with over 30% cocoa and below 50% must have no more than 0.30 mg/kg of cadmium
• Chocolate with more than 50% will have a threshold of 0.80 mg/kg
• Cocoa powder sold to the final consumer typically as drinking will have a limit of 0.60mg/ kg
Source: (EU) No 488/2014
Cacao beans from Latin America are particularly affected. Previous research has indicated higher levels of lead and cadmium in cacao beans in Latin America compared to beans from West Africa. Cacao beans from West Africa, however, are considered “bulk beans” and lack the flavour Swiss chocolatiers are looking for.
The low cadmium level of Philippine cacao beans brings opportunities for Philippine cacao farmers and producers, particularly in premium products (specialty, fine flavour and certified chocolate) as Swiss chocolate manufacturers look for new sources of cacao beans to protect its international reputation for high quality with many famous international brands.
The Department of Trade and Industry, through the various foreign trade posts, supports Philippine cacao farmers in demonstrating significant progress in the Philippine cacao sectors by aiming at niche markets for high quality and speciality cocoa and chocolate products. Government agencies and farmers/producers need to work hand-in-hand to be able to supply high quality Criollo/Trinitario cacao beans with good traceability and superior quality.
This positive development is also timely in light of the DTI’s thrust to upgrade the Philippine cacao industry in the global value chain. The cadmium level could also feed in the discussion during the Philippines’ hosting of the Asia-Pacific Cacao Congress scheduled from September 15 to 17 at the SMX Convention Center.
PTIC-Geneva works with Swiss cacao distributors, buyers and sourcing organisations, as well cocoa sustainability specialists. FarmStrong Foundation ( is a Swiss public interest organisation that promotes resilient, structured, rural economic development through integrated sustainable agricultural production systems in cocoa growing communities. The cadmium test was done by Intertek Group plc (, a multinational inspection, product testing and certification company headquartered in the UK with testing facilities in 100 countries including Switzerland and the Philippines. (END)
To request for a copy of the cadmium test, please write to PTIC-Geneva (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
Written by: TSO Magnolia Uy, PTIC-Geneva.
Date of release: 08 June 2018

by Magnolia M. Uy / Commercial Attaché Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the World Trade Organization, Philippine Trade and Investment Center Geneva

Published in Business Mirror

25 July 2017

PHILIPPINE micro- small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) that want to expand their market overseas—especially in highly developed markets, such as Switzerland, the European Union (EU) and the US but are uncertain on how to proceed—can now tap the expertise and experience of international trade lawyers for free.

Sidley Austin Llp., an international law firm, launched the Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Program to help poor, rural and disadvantaged communities by providing free legal support to MSMEs and market-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Through technical guidance and hand-holding, MSMEs can benefit from, among others, legal-trade advice on market-access requirements, as well as better understanding intellectual property rights and patents for innovative ideas.

For many MSMEs around the world, legal barriers are among the key hindrances to trade. However, since the program’s introduction in 2012, over 120 MSMEs from more than 30 countries have benefitted. These include an Indonesian chocolate producer overcoming challenges in the EU market because its formula has to meet EU’s minimum cocoa requirement; shea producers unable to sell products containing shea to Indian buyers because of regulatory restrictions; and an African clean-cook stove enterprise entangled in an intellectual property dispute with a Chinese company.

Further, the program works toward enabling more MSMEs in developing countries to participate in e-commerce by helping them address constraints. E-commerce has always been touted as a key enabler for MSMEs worldwide to participate in global trade. However, it entails legal requirements in order to be realized. For instance, it is essential to have an effective privacy policy that protects producers and buyers during the online transaction; to carry out online business transactions on the basis of enforceable and internationally recognized buyer-seller contracts; and as intellectual property must be protected, products must also comply with market-access requirements.

The Department of Trade and Industry, through The Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) in Geneva, can facilitate the introduction and engagement of eligible Philippine MSMEs with the proponent. Applications for pro bono support are reviewed on a case-by-case basis through the following criteria:

  • Located in or have primary operations in a developing country in Africa, Asia, Central and South America or the Caribbean;
  • Committed to delivering a positive social impact;
  • Have established a presence in the local market (i.e., beyond start-up);
  • Agree to secure local counsel; and
  • Are unable to afford or otherwise access international legal services.


For more information, you can get in touch with the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Geneva, Switzerland, at +41-22-9097900/ 7906/7915/7917 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. PTIC Geneva is led by our commercial attaches, TSO Maggie Uy and TSO Ella Burgos, and is located at the Philippine Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organization at Rue de Lausanne 80, 1902 Geneva.

Geneva, Switzerland – The Philippines, through the Philippine Trade and Investment Center – Geneva (PTIC-Geneva), together with 49 other WTO members who comprise the group “Friends of MSMEs” co-organized a working session in the 2017 WTO Public Forum entitled “The Case of MSMEs In Inclusive Trade For Sustainable Development”.

Undersecretary Zenaida C. Maglaya of the Regional Operations Group of the Department of Trade and Industry represented the Philippines. She was joined by Undersecretary Shunko Rojas of Argentina, Executive Director Arancha Gonzalez of International Trade Center (ITC), Senior Director Anabel Gonzalez of World Bank (WB), and Advisor of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as co-panellists.

“The significance of micro small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) as major economic drivers is beyond question. Their sheer number is overwhelming, as they account for over 95% of all enterprises in most countries,” Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya, Regional Operations Group of the Department of Trade and Industry said during the WTO Public Forum working session. “In a globalised world, there is a growing number of MSMEs who supply the export market either directly or indirectly by being involved in the production of parts and components for regional and global value chains serving large producers locally or abroad.”

Ms Arancha Gonzalez of ITC underscored that “when MSMEs internationalise, they become more competitive and provide better quality jobs. However, their topmost obstacle is good quality trade data. We also need to build more inclusive value chain for MSMEs. This starts at the level of trade agreements, expanding regionally and even multilaterally. Another opportunity for MSMEs is electronic commerce – it is the best ecosystem for MSMEs to internationalise without intermediaries, thereby capturing the trade value for itself.”

“ITU is the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICTs. With e-commerce becoming an emerging platform to help boost MSMEs growth, the ITU aims to bring all ICT stakeholders together to foster MSMEs to increase ICT growth,” Mark Scheurer of ITU.

“MSMEs, however, remain significantly underserved by financial institutions. Research has calculated that the credit gap that formal SMEs confront is about $1trillion. When informal SMEs are taken into account, that gap widens even further, to around $2.6 trillion. World Bank continues to explore policies and frameworks to support SMEs, and analyse innovations in the realm of SME finance realm,” Ms Anabel Gonzalez of WB added.

Ambassador Hector Casanueva of the Mission of Chile to the WTO and coordinator of the group of Friends of MSMEs served as the session’s moderator. The Friends of MSMEs is comprised of 50 WTO members namely, Argentina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, European Union (27), Guatemala, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, The Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, Switzerland, Uruguay, and Viet Nam.

“The recognition of MSMEs’ contribution has generated interest from policy makers the world over. In April 2017, the United Nations made its first step to recognize MSMEs as we now celebrate the World MSME Day every 27th of June. It is therefore fitting and about time that WTO members also seek to address and make a significant contribution in supporting the growth, and development of MSMEs. And, we can do so by considering the most appropriate arrangement to develop a set of activities and related programmes that will foster the participation of MSMEs in the global market with particular consideration to the needs and interests of developing and least developed countries,” concluded Undersecretary Maglaya.

With the theme "Trade: Behind the Headlines", this year’s forum held on 26 – 28 September offered an opportunity to go beyond the rhetoric and examine in detail the realities of trade – the opportunities it offers and the challenges it can bring. WTO Director Azevedo opened the Forum with a plenary debate with Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center; Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund; Susana Malcorra, Minister Advisor to the government of Argentina; Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of the South Africa-based Econet Group; and Naushad Forbes, co-chairman of Forbes Marshall and former president of the Confederation of Indian Industry. Of the 106 sessions, about 70 sessions discussed MSMEs and SMEs in one way or another.

The Public Forum is the WTO’s largest annual outreach event, which provides a platform for participants to discuss the latest developments in world trade and to propose ways of enhancing the multilateral trading system. The 3-day event attracts over 2,000 participants from civil society, academia, business, the media, governments, parliamentarians and inter-governmental organizations. Visit the WTO website for more information.

By Magnolia Uy / Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the WTO, Philippine Trade and Investment Center-Geneva

ACCESSING relevant information on product requirements in export markets can be a huge challenge, especially for micro-, small- and  medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Thus, a new Web-based alert system designed to help government agencies and MSMEs to receive the latest information on regulatory requirements in various markets was tackled during “Usapang Exports” last December. More than 50 Philippine exporters participated in the virtual training delivered through video-conference that was  coorganized by the Philippine Investment Center-Geneva and the Export Marketing Bureau (EMB), in coordination with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The system, known as ePing, allows access to WTO members’ notifications of TBT and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. It also facilitates dialogue among the public and private sectors in addressing potential trade problems at an early stage. Users of ePing will be able to easily keep up to date with notifications affecting foreign markets and products of particular interest to them.

The publicly accessible online tool is available at www.epingalert.orgThrough a simple registration page, users can personalize the alerts regarding SPS and TBT notifications covering specific products or markets of interest to them. In addition, it offers an Enquiry Point Management Tool to facilitate domestic, as well as international, information sharing and discussion. The system helps users track, consult and comment on measures that are being developed and/or adapt as necessary to changing regulatory conditions.

Each year, the WTO receives more than 3,500 TBT and SPS notifications proposing new measures that may affect international trade. Consequently, the need to comply with different foreign technical regulations and standards involves significant costs for producers and exporters. By improving access to this information, ePing will help avoid disruptions caused by these measures.

With the high interest received from the participants, the ePing alert system will become part of the Department of Trade and Industry’s “Doing Business in Free Trade Agreement” Programme implemented by the Export Manufacturing Bureau.

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