PRESIDENT Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has asked his fellow Asia-Pacific leaders to pay close attention to challenges confronting the shipping and logistics services sector in the region, as he recognized its role as "the backbone of global trade and investment."

Marcos made the call during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Informal Dialogue in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday.

"Shipping and logistics services are the backbone of global trade and investment and yet, we have not paid them ample attention," Marcos told the APEC members.

Citing the Philippines' case, the President said businesses in the country absorb up to 30 percent of costs from logistics alone, having "one of the highest rates in the region."

"With logistics being a pivotal part of supply chains, this limits the integration of our products in global value chains and cuts our access to critical raw materials," he said.

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Marcos called on governments to "eliminate all forms of discrimination," especially for products coming from micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

He noted that there are ways to address non-trade and other related measures without depriving businesses and MSMEs of access and participation in supply chains.

Closer cooperation with businesses, especially MSMEs, would help improve their capacity and foster a "competitive environment," the President said.

"We look to this forum as a platform to share best practices," he said. "By ensuring that our MSMEs participate in global supply chains, we will have diversified our supply sources, we will have enhanced sustainable and inclusive growth, and strengthened the competitiveness of our economies."

Marcos also highlighted the essential role of maritime crew, the maritime industry, and the transport sector in ensuring robust and resilient global supply chains and post-pandemic recovery.

He said that further discussions and cooperation are needed in these areas and called on his counterparts to capacitate every member economy to address the challenges and needs of the sector and essential workers.

Meanwhile, Marcos asked his foreign counterparts to create a "free, fair, and inclusive" trade and investment environment in the region, as he acknowledged the 21-member bloc's vital role in fostering a "stable and predictable environment for progress and prosperity, anchored on peace and collaboration."

He said APEC member economies must seek a "responsive and relevant" multilateral trading system by ensuring their compliance with the existing agreements, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) deals.

"A free, fair, open, non-discriminatory, transparent, inclusive, and predictable trade and investment environment will help economies practice responsible policy-making that is crucial in ensuring that everyone can fully participate and benefit from trade," Marcos told his fellow APEC economic leaders during his intervention in a working lunch at the summit.

"Fostering open markets, predictable and fair rules, and a functioning system to adjudicate these views are the hallmarks of responsive and relevant multilateral trading system to build a robust global economy towards greener, more inclusive, and resilient societies," he added.

Marcos acknowledged that global trade has been a "central feature" in addressing the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and supporting economic recovery.

The spirit of cooperation, he said, will yield remarkable economic growth.

"As a global focus shifts to reigniting growth and charting the path for a strong economic recovery, governments are responsible for providing their people with the necessary support for recovery, growth and for development," he added.