THE full potential of trade deals available to micro, small, and medium enterprise (MSME) exporters remains largely untapped, pointing to a need for the government to talk up the advantages of such preferential arrangements, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.
“The government must empower MSMEs, particularly those that are export-oriented by encouraging them to utilize preferential trade arrangements to expand their market reach and level the playing field,” Trade Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty said during a recent workshop organized by the ARISE Plus Philippines project.
“Based on Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) 2020 data, MSMEs have generated more than 5 million jobs comprising 62.66% of the country’s total employment,” Mr. Gepty added.
Among the trade agreements the Philippines is party to, Mr. Gepty said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was particularly crucial for MSMEs to tap because of its harmonized and improved trade facilitation mechanisms for member economies.
RCEP includes Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“For example, the RCEP’s Rules of Origin have a single set of requirements for ASEAN and its key trading partners to enter each other’s markets under, mostly, duty free treatment,” Mr. Gepty said.
“It would be much easier for Philippine exporters to comply with certifications and forms and avail of preferential arrangements as they need only review and meet RCEP requirements instead of having to study and hurdle the requirements of various free trade agreements depending on the country they intend to export to,” he added.
The Philippines has yet to sign on to RCEP after the Senate was unable to give its concurrence before it took a break on Feb. 3 for the May elections. President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the RCEP agreement on Sept. 2.
The ARISE Plus Philippines project, a four-year project funded by the European Union, seeks to develop the Philippines’ trade performance and competitiveness with an eye towards bringing about inclusive economic growth and reducing poverty. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave