BUSINESSMAN Ramon del Rosario Jr. said although the country is currently enjoying a favorable foreign investor environment, “now is the time to open up the economy and address the remaining trade and investment restrictions.”
He was hinting principally at the constitutional limit on ownership of 60-percent Filipino and 40-percent foreign, that needs to be addressed to ensure that foreign capital and resources would flow into the country.
Del Rosario, chairman of the Makati Business Club, presented the private sector view of the preparatory meeting for both the Asean Economic Council and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in 2015. APEC is being hosted by the Philippines.
The Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Foreign Affairs (DFA) conducted recently a joint briefing and consultation meeting with representatives from the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the Asean Business Advisory Councils (Asean-BAC) on the Philippine preparedness for AEC and APEC.
The forum was a venue to increase awareness and understanding of the benefits and challenges of AEC 2015, envisioned to be a single market and production base, a highly competitive region of equitable economic development and fully integrated into the global economy.
Both the APEC BAC and the Asean BAC are comprised of business leaders representing a diverse range of sectors including small and large enterprises in the region.
The APEC BAC presents recommendations to APEC leaders in an annual dialogue and advises APEC officials on business sector priorities and concerns.
Meanwhile, the Asean BAC provides private sector feedback and guidance to boost Asean’s efforts towards economic integration and identify priority areas for consideration of the Asean leaders.
Trade Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. provided updates on the government’s preparations and initiatives in ensuring the country’s preparedness for the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.
He said, “Over the past two decades, tariffs across Asean have been gradually decreasing. Since 2010, most of the import duties have been abolished in Asean. Having addressed these tariff issues, the focus now is to tackle nontariff barriers that impede inter-Asean trade.”
Since January 2010, the Asean six member-states—Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand—have eliminated import duties on 99.65 percent of trade tariff lines, while the Asean four member-states—Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam—have 98.86 percent of their traded tariff lines reduced to 0 to 5 percent. As of 2010, almost all duties have been eliminated on agricultural and industrial products.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario presented the priority themes for APEC 2015 as well as the timetable their implementation. Suggested themes are regional economic integration, mainstreaming SMEs, food security and inclusive growth, among others.
“We need to define our trade and economic interests in the Asia Pacific region and Asean, as well,” Cristobal said. “It is through sustained and constructive engagements with the private sector that will help us in identifying areas of concern in the Asean and APEC economies. Both are our markets for exports, raw materials, and intermediate goods as well as a source and destination of investments,” Cristobal added.
In response to Cristobal’s statement, the forum’s participants agreed to continue the dialogue among government and business through more frequent and focused discussions in areas such as energy, services, SMEs, emergency preparedness, food security, and connectivity and logistics.