APEC backs Manila’s MSME action agenda

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BORACAY, Aklan: The trade ministers of the 21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries endorsed the Philippines’ Boracay Action Agenda which seeks to foster the participation of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the regional and global markets.

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The trade ministers endorsed the Philippine proposal at the conclusion of the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) 2015 meeting held in Boracay, Aklan on Sunday in which they recognized the importance of MSMEs as a force in economic activity, growth, job creation, community resilience and innovation.

Fostering MSME participation in regional and global markets was one of the three main items on the MRT 2015 agenda.

The Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs is an action-oriented initiative that supports APEC’s ongoing work to address the barriers faced by MSMEs in international trade.

Through the said agenda, member economies will facilitate micro and small enterprises’ access to regional and global markets in the identified priority areas for cooperation and action on trade facilitation, e-commerce, financing and institutional support, including for women-led MSMEs.

“It is quite an accomplishment for the chairmanship of the Philippines. There was broad recognition [of the Boracay Action Agenda]. It was a very popular thing as soon as we floated it,” Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory L. Domingo told reporters.

“The Philippines submitted a skeleton, a very bare-bones structure for it, and because of the broad interest, a lot of economies put in very good comments and suggestions so at the end, it was not a Philippines statement anymore. It was really a true APEC statement because it contained a lot of very good suggestions from the different member economies. So it becomes full-bodied,” he said.

The Boracay action plan will be endorsed to the APEC Leaders Summit in November and is expected to be adopted by the APEC leaders.

Domingo also said that Peru, as the next host country of APEC, and Malaysia as current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), are interested in pushing the Boracay Action Agenda and eventually adopting it.

“Peru is the chair next year and they talked to us. They would like to further push this work so we will be coordinating with Peru on how we can have a good transition so that this initiative, the Boracay Action Agenda, will take on a big life,” he said.

“Also Malaysia, the current Asean chair, talked to us and they would like to coordinate with us on the SME agenda so that maybe at a minimum, [there will be]some coordination to adopt the agenda at this meeting,” he added.

The MRT chair added, “Twenty years ago this would not have been possible, but because of automation and e-commerce, it becomes more relevant to fold the micro and small enterprises in the global trade agenda because there are normal platforms now to make it happen.”

Domingo said that because of e-commerce, this is now possible since a platform can be developed that can incorporate new rules for the logistics component and payment component to make it “payless” but it needs the cooperation of the member economies to make the rules simple.

“What will be embedded into this logistics system and e-commerce platform should be simple enough that will be transparent for the exporters,” he said.

“In this matter we need the help of the private sector to further develop a platform to incorporate these rules,” he added.

Priority areas
The 21 APEC member economies adopted the APEC 2015 theme of “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World” and focused discussions on many issues, including key priority areas ranging from support for a multilateral trading system, enhancing regional economic integration, a connectivity blueprint, and services.

“On the WTO, we are all encouraged by the progress made by the WTO to implement the Bali Package resulting from the 9th Ministerial Conference (MC9). With the adoption of the Protocol of Amendment for the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), three APEC members have already notified their acceptance of the protocol. All APEC members have committed to submit the instruments of acceptance to the WTO by the 10th Ministerial Conference,” the APEC trade ministers said in a statement.

The trade ministers reaffirmed the green growth objective to reduce applied tariffs to five percent or less by the end of 2015 on the APEC List of Environmental Goods as endorsed by Leaders in 2012.

Also by November 2015, the ministers hope to demonstrate APEC’s successful achievement of this ground-breaking commitment.

APEC members also continue to make good progress toward a seamless and comprehensively connected and integrated Asia Pacific region by implementing the APEC Connectivity Blueprint for 2015-2025, the statement said.

Among the initiatives under way is to improve connectivity to and from remote areas led by Indonesia. The ministers said they will continue to develop the APEC Services Cooperation Framework (ASCF) and the APEC Virtual Knowledge Centre on Services.

“The services sector is an important component and economic dynamism in all our economies. We will promote an enabling environment for services trade and investment as well as improve the competitiveness of our services sectors to meet the Bogor Goals and strengthen regional economic integration,” the trade ministers said.

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