Boracay, Aklan: World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevêdo on Saturday lauded the Philippines for its continuing economic progress, noting such growth helped propagate world trade.
“The Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in the region — thanks in no small part to the competitiveness of its exports. Good governance, openness and dynamism have combined to build a strong trading economy here,” Azevêdo, who attended the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting, said.
The WTO chief also cited the Philippines’ success in the outsourcing business, saying the country is one of the world’s leading outsourcing destinations along with India. Manila and Cebu City meanwhile are in the top 10 list of most attractive centers for investors looking to outsource services.
“And I think it is fair to say that the World Trade Organization has played a role in underpinning this success. After all, the Philippines has been a member of the WTO since day one,” he stressed.
He said the Philippines also played a key role in the forging of the Bali agreement in 2013.
“This country has shown tremendous leadership throughout the Bali process. Philippine support was vital in striking the Agreement. And, more recently, Ambassador Conejos has played a crucial role in chairing the implementation committee and driving the Agreement forward so that it can come into force,” Azevêdo said. He was referring to Ambassador Esteban Conejos, the Philippine Permanent Representative to the WTO and chairman of the Trade Facilitation Committee.
“Our members came together there to deliver a big negotiating success. They took ten important decisions on a range of topics — from cotton and food security to a package of measures in support of Least developed countries (LDC),” Azevêdo said.
He said the Bali meeting led to the crafting of the Trade Facilitation Agreement which is important for the Philippines.
“By making the movement of goods across borders faster, easier and cheaper, it is estimated that this Agreement will reduce trade costs at the border by up to 15% for developing countries,” Azevêdo said.
The Bali agreement could inject up to $1 trillion per year into the global economy, creating 21 million jobs worldwide, he added.
“Here in the Philippines, an enhanced global trading system would offer very significant and increased opportunities for growth and development,” Azevêdo said.
Trade ministers from the 21 members of APEC will start laying the groundwork for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) as they aim to speed up the economic integration process in the region.
Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said the ministers’ meeting that ends today focused on the regional economic integration.
Domingo, who is also APEC 2015 MRT Chairman, said APEC trade ministers will come out with the terms of reference (TOR) for the study on FTAAP this year.
Domingo said they will discuss efforts in line with the achievement of the Bogor Goals aimed at enhancing the regional economic integration agenda, support for the multilateral trading system and fostering participation of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in regional and global markets.
Domingo called on APEC to further expand trade and investment which is crucial in supporting inclusive growth and poverty reduction across the region.
He stressed the need for APEC to take significant strides towards achieving this goal, being an important regional bloc and a major player in international trade.
Domingo identified inequality and poverty as the biggest challenges to APEC economies.
“Over the past 50 years, trade has proven to be a powerful engine of growth. Thus, we need to expand trade and investment and encourage economic dynamism to achieve strong, sustainable, and inclusive growth,” he said.