CEBU CITY – Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Assistant Secretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo addressed participants at the opening of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Third Senior Officials Meeting (SOM3) Dialogue on Regional Trade Agreements/Free Trade Agreements (RTAs/FTAs) today (2 September 2015) in Cebu. “Ease of access to information and consultations in trade agreements are key to regional cooperation. It is important for stakeholders to understand the bilateral, regional, and multilateral trading system of APEC member economies and how we can work towards achieving strengthened, transparent, and inclusive trade agreements,” said Rodolfo.

The regional dialogue furthers the implementation of the Beijing Road Map for APEC’s Contribution to the Realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) and its continuing work on regional economic integration.

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According to Rodolfo, the Philippines supports APEC’s work on trade facilitation and transparency, specifically streamlining rules of origin (ROO) and implementing these in the country’s various trade agreements. “Engaging stakeholders in policy formulation facilitates the access of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to preferential markets. By simplifying and streamlining rules of origin, for example, we can facilitate the access of MSMEs to preferential markets as highlighted in the Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs,” he said.

The Philippine-led Boracay Action Agenda was endorsed by the Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) at the MRT meeting earlier this year. The Agenda aims to encourage the participation of MSMEs in global and regional trade. Since August 22, the start of preparatory meetings and dialogues building towards SOM3 in Cebu, the Philippines has taken the lead in pursuing initiatives that will contribute to the implementation of the Boracay Action Agenda.

“The instruments we develop such as regional trade agreements and free trade agreements should harness trade’s potential, ensuring that both developing and non-developing economies benefit alike from our work. Trade is a tool for development but APEC economies should work together to spread the benefits of trade and globalization to all,” Rodolfo explained.

Rodolfo, who is also the APEC 2015 Philippine Lead for Trade, said that access to updated information is key to transparency. He cited the APEC Trade Repository (APEC TR), a web portal that will provide relevant and organized information on cross-border trade, such as the existing tariff and trade regimes of APEC member economies. Rodolfo said that the recent approval by Senior Officials for implementation of the Philippine’s proposal for the creation of an APEC TR boosts the Philippines’ advocacy for transparency and access to information for MSMEs.

In the Philippines, “Country, One Voice” (OCOV), the DTI’s information sessions and consultations with stakeholders was established in 2011. OCOV engages stakeholder participation in policy formation for current and possible trade agreements of the country such as the review of the Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (PJEPA), scoping exercises for a possible free trade agreement with the European Union, and current discussions with the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) for a possible trade agreement. OCOV sessions are held in key cities around the country and participated in by relevant government agencies, business and industry organizations, civil society organizations, and members of the academe.

According to the APEC Policy Support Unit (PSU), APEC member economies have enforced 144 FTAs – more than half of all the FTAs in place globally. APEC Senior Officials previously held high-level RTA/FTA policy dialogues in 2003 to 2005 – these resulted in APEC model measures for various chapters as well as APEC Best Practices for RTAs/FTA endorsed by our Ministers in 2004. (END)