28 March 2018

Published also in Business Mirror

TRADE Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, the Philippines’s chief negotiator at the World Trade Organization (WTO), said an inter-agency delegation headed by Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will appear before the WTO Trade Policy Review Body in Geneva, Switzerland, from March 26 to 28 for the country’s Fifth Trade Policy Review.

Rodolfo will be joined by senior officials of the DTI, the departments of Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Finance, and of Labor and Employment, Board of Investments, National Food Authority, the Food and Drug Administration, Intellectual Property Office and 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.

Lopez said, “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 program 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 the United States and China) have submitted questions covering a wide range of trade and economic issues, such as the developments in the Philippines’s 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,” Rodolfo said.