Arequipa, Peru—The Philippines called for stronger collaboration among Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies to address current challenges and revitalize the multilateral trading system.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Allan Gepty, representing Secretary Fred Pascual, participated in the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting held from May 17 to 18. Themed “Empower. Include. Grow.,” the meeting focused on charting a course toward deeper economic and technical cooperation to boost prosperity and well-being across the Asia-Pacific region.

During discussions on trade liberalization and the outcomes of the 13th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference, Undersecretary Gepty underscored, “While we did not achieve the outcomes we had hoped for, the Philippines sees this as an opportunity for us to reflect and collaborate more to strengthen the multilateral trading system.

“We need to build on the positive outcomes of MC13 by implementing and advancing the decisions and agreements from the meeting. In this regard, the Philippines reaffirms its commitment to upholding the WTO’s role in fostering a rules-based, non-discriminatory, free, open, fair, transparent, and inclusive multilateral trading system,” Undersecretary Gepty added as he expressed a firm resolution to address the outstanding issues in the WTO.

Highlighting agriculture as a Philippine priority, Undersecretary Gepty urged APEC economies to engage constructively to resolve domestic support and public stockholding issues. He suggested that member economies explore alternative approaches for further discussion in recognition that this is a new subject in APEC.

The Philippines also championed the integration of broader segments into trade, supporting greater inclusion of micro, small, and medium enterprises, women, persons with disabilities, and youth and elderly.

Meanwhile, during the first-ever Joint Women and Trade Ministers’ Ministerial Meeting, DTI Undersecretary Carol Sanchez joined Undersecretary Gepty in sharing about the Philippines’ policies and programs to empower women entrepreneurs in the rapidly growing digital economy. These programs focus on training and support in business skills development, e-commerce, mentoring, digital marketing, technology access, and financing.

Addressing informality is a key priority for Peru’s 2024 APEC chairmanship. To facilitate the transition to the formal and global economy, member economies are collaborating on a roadmap that includes capacity-building and skill development programs. This roadmap will be finalized before the November APEC Leaders’ Summit.

Additionally, APEC Trade Ministers explored the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, a concept pushed by the Business Advisory Council as APEC’s business arm.

“With the current global economic setting, coupled with many challenges and fast-paced advancement of technology, FTAAP should be viewed more in the context of regional cooperation and economic integration that facilitates not only trade but creates more opportunities for our people under an environment that is fair, and fosters inclusive growth and development”, said Undersecretary Gepty.

The APEC trade ministers successfully concluded the meeting with a statement reaffirming APEC’s commitment to promoting inclusive and interconnected trade and investment across the Asia-Pacific region. On the sidelines of the ministerial meeting, Undersecretary Gepty also met with officials of Chile, Canada, and the United Kingdom to discuss plans for deeper bilateral trade and investment cooperation. ♦

Date of release: 04 June 2024