Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in the Philippines are expected to “significantly benefit” from the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), a government official said.
The agreement is a key component of the Doha Development Agenda, which aims to speed up the movement of goods among its member countries.
For it to take effect, two thirds of WTO member should have completed domestic ratification process. In the Philippines’ case, the country will still have to submit an “instrument of acceptance” – signed by the president – before the WTO.
Ceferino Rodolfo, undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said once the Philippines is included in the TFA, more MSMEs will be able to trade internationally given the relaxed trading rules among member countries.
“Our MSMEs can now easily export goods and finished products as well as import intermediate goods which would serve as industry inputs for processing and re-export, fully integrating our industries into the global value chain,” Rodolfo said.
“This will result into a spillover effect to other industries, thus generating jobs, disseminating upgraded technology, and advancing the skills and capability of our local entrepreneurs,” he added.
The country ranked 8th in the list of top 25 developing economy exporters in the 2013 World Investment Report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the DTI official noted.
Negotiations on the WTO TFA started in 2014. It has yet to be ratified and is waiting for the domestic ratification by WTO member countries, including the Philippines.
Last month, DTI Secretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. said the Philippines has yet to complete the local ratification for the TFA application.
“There are still a couple of more agencies for the ratification. But we’re confident that the TFA will be ratified. It will be very good for our MSMEs,” Cristobal said.
An issue being raised regarding the TFA, he said, was the subsidy system of other developed countries for the goods they export. This would mean more advantage to exported goods of developed countries over the exports of underdeveloped countries like the Philippines, he added.
A possible step is to remove those subsidies of other countries to promote a level playing field in international trade, Cristobal noted.
The WTO TFA would promote a “conducive trading environment for business, and reduce prices for consumers and producers,” according to the DTI chief.
“The procedures and provisions in the TFA establishes a more efficient and streamlined mechanism for traders, which in turn contribute to improve the overall experience of doing business in the Philippines,” he added.
The DTI said the WTO TFA is consistent with local reforms that are currently underway, such as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) which is now pending ratification in Congress.
The CMTA adopts trade facilitation measures that will expedite import and export clearance. It will improve customs services through a simplified, secured, and harmonized cargo clearance process, which can also address the transparency and accountability issues at the Bureau of Customs.