The Department of Trade and Industry expressed its optimism over the recently agreed “Bali Package,” which could benefit the country’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs), particularly exporters, through the Trade Facilitation (TF) agreement.
The TF agreement, one of the three pillars of the Bali Package, is aimed at lowering global trade barriers and is the first agreement reached through the World Trade Organization (WTO) that was approved by all its member-states. It stipulates reforms to promote transparency and efficiency in customs operations.
The other two pillars of the Bali Package are agricultural development, and least developed countries (LDCs) deliverables.
Heading the Philippine delegation to the biannual conference of ministers, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo said, “The “Bali Package,” which includes the agreement on trade facilitation, complements the government’s initiatives to improve customs operations and will greatly benefit our country’s small- and medium-sized enterprises that participate in trade.“
Together with strong special and differential treatment provisions, the TF agreement will complement the Philippines’ initiatives to institute domestic customs administration reforms towards a more efficient and streamlined mechanism for traders, while respecting its implementation capacities. Transparent and streamlined customs procedures, on the other hand, will encourage new and innovative SMEs to enter the mainstream of trade.
DTI Undersecretary for Industry Development and Trade Policy Adrian Cristobal Jr. emphasized the advantage of the TF Agreement in expanding the country’s export markets.
“Our customs operations are more transparent than our developing country markets. This trade facilitation agreement specific to customs rules and procedures on transparency will improve access of our exporters in traditional markets and in other developing countries with a huge market base, as well,” he said.
Cristobal noted the shift of the Philippine trade pattern in the past decade, from the traditional markets or the developed countries to emerging markets or the developing countries.
“Over the past several years, we have expanded our export trade to developing countries and emerging economies such as China, our Asean neighbors, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, through free trade agreements. These markets make up the 60 percent of our total global trade,” he added.
Asean is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The Philippines will also stand to gain from the agreement in agriculture, where developing countries will be able to maintain and even expand stockholdings of traditional staple crops—like rice—for food security purposes. These countries will be free from disputes at the WTO until the matter of limits or ceiling is permanently resolved. It was reiterated that such programs must not distort trade and should not adversely affect food security of other members.
Domingo called the Bali Package a “historic breakthrough” for the WTO and the Doha Development Agenda, after 12 years of failed attempts to get an agreement among the organization’s member-states.
“With this downpayment for the DDA, we see enhanced credibility for the WTO as a negotiation forum and a resurgent rules-based multilateral trading system,” he said.