MICRO, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should take a proactive stance and seize the opportunities offered by the Asean Economic Community (AEC) instead of cowering in fear of regional competition, one of the country’s top economic managers said.
“Playing a bigger role in the AEC will enable them to grow their business and reap the benefits of being Asean-engaged,” said former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Cielito Habito.
Habito, head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Trade-Related Assistance for Development (Trade) Project, was speaking at a regional conference titled “Industry Roadmaps and the AEC Gameplan: Roadmaps Localization for Competitiveness” held in Butuan City recently.
Together with Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Assistant Secretary Rafaelita Aldaba, Habito encouraged stakeholders in Region 13 to translate both the AEC Game Plan and various industry roadmaps into local action.
He spoke on the economic opportunities and potentials for local industries and sectors and how they can take advantage of opportunities under the AEC.
“International trade in the contemporary setting has become more complementary and less competitive due to cross-border value chains, thereby rendering trade protectionism irrelevant,” he said.
“MSMEs would do well to invest time and effort to expand their horizons and establish a stronger foothold in the regional market,” Habito said.
He added that MSMEs should study and utilize government programs designed to help them take advantage of trade and investment opportunities under the AEC.
According to Habito, the AEC opens up easy access to a wider market that includes the six economies of Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand apart from the 10 Asean economies.
While the domestic market has 100 million consumers and the Asean market has more than 600 million consumers, the Asean +6 market has 3.45 billion consumers, all of whom become potential customers with duty-free access for Philippine exporters by virtue of the Asean free trade agreements with those six major economies, he explained.
Habito also stressed the significance of new emerging high-level agreements, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which promise more growth opportunities from an even larger market base.
“The Philippines cannot afford not to be part of these agreements once it is fully operative, as we stand to lose some of our trade with major economies and stand to forego tremendous new trade opportunities that these economies could provide our local exporters,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Aldaba explained the Philippine’s New Industrial Policy for More Competitive Regional Economies and highlighted the need to scale-up the region’s agriculture sector by aligning its dominantly thriving and potential industries with national industry roadmaps.