• Asean integration issues at Competitiveness dialogue

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    The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been aggressively doing the rounds advising businesses to seize the opportunities that implementation of the Asean Economic Community in December 2015 will bring about. At the second NCC Dialogues last week, NCC Private Sector Co-Chairman Guillermo Luz said in his opening remarks that the “Asean Economic Community is not a choice, it is a decision. It is a commitment by the country as a member of the Asean.”

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    True. We have no choice but to make ourselves competitive or die.

    Former NEDA Director General Dr. Cielito F. Habito, currently Chief of Party for the Trade-Related Assistance for Development (TRADE) Project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) discussed the AEC and the Philippine economy as a whole during the dialogue.

    Habito highlighted his four key observations of the coming of AEC: “it is more complementation and less competition; the overall benefits of integration outweigh the cost; it is pushing us to do the right things; and it is not just coming, it’s mostly already here.”

    Complementation should mean that we produce the goods that the other countries do not produce so that they source from us. In the same breath, we source from them what we do not produce. That way, there will be less of competition and more of complementing what they don’t have.

    Habito cited the efforts of the government as he emphasized the elements in the AEC Game Plan for the benefit of small and medium enterprises, including DTI’s initiatives on clustering and shared service facilities (SSF), a nationwide information campaign on Doing Business in Free Trade Areas (DBFTA), industry roadmap development, and work for a Fair Competition Law in Congress, among many others.

    In most of Asean countries, the Philippine SME (small and medium enterprises) sector has been and continues to remain as the key driver of the country’s economic growth accounting for 99.6 percent of total business establishments and 60 percent of total employment in the country. So Habito advised the SME sector, “to adopt the ‘coopetition’ (cooperating while competing) attitude in order for you to be well-positioned for the AEC.”

    “We should not look at Asean as they or them. Asean is we. Remember we are among the five founders of the Asean 1967. We have to better assert our role as a leader in Asean because we are the integral part of those leaders,” Habito continued.

    Habito also said one of the challenges the Philippine government faces is how to increase jobs in the country as he cited that while the economy grew 7.2%, the number of jobs only grew 0.17% in 2013. This is really foremost in everybody’s mind. Who is benefiting from all these economic growth? What for is all this talk of growth if only the few at the top are enjoying it?

    Habito emphasized that “December 31, 2015 is not a day of reckoning, but a target of 100% compliance so no tsunami of Asean goods will happen on January 1, 2016.” Truth to tell, about 99.6 percent of all products of Aseam members have already started trading at zero tariffs since 2010 with 84-89% compliance to the AEC Blueprint commitments as reported in the latest scorecard of Asean Secretariat. How did the Philippines do?

    God is Great!

    thelmadm@yahoo.com

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