The Philippines is pushing for the inclusion of rice in the list of essential goods traded in Asean where non-tariff measures (NTMs) should be minimized.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said at the Asean economic ministers (AEM) retreat held virtually on March 2 to 3, the ministers tasked their senior economic officials to work on the expansion of the Asean list of essential goods with the view to include food and agricultural products to the current list of medicines and medical supplies and equipment – as necessary goods in combating the new coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, on which the NTMs must be minimized.
Lopez stressed the need to expand the list of essential goods especially the inclusion of staple food such as rice.
“It is imperative for Asean to show to our stakeholders that member-states are determined to ensure the smooth flow of these essential goods in these challenging times. In fact, even in normal circumstances, it is incumbent upon member-states to refrain from implementing unnecessary non-tariff trade measures.”
The ministers’ directive is line with the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Implementation of the Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) signed by Asean at the sidelines of the 37th Asean Summit in November 2020.
The MOU urges member states to refrain from implementing unnecessary trade measures that may affect the movement of these goods. It calls on them to facilitate timely information sharing among member-states on any trade-related measure applied to the aforementioned essential goods and supplies.
Lopez reported the economic ministers also agreed to realize this year three priority economic deliverables (PEDs): recovery, digitalization and sustainability.
“We see the value of the identified PEDs especially in enhancing and complementing existing Asean initiatives, especially towards economic recovery efforts. The plan is to have these initiatives realized within the year, as they will significantly contribute to Asean’s regional integration,” said Lopez. – Irma Isip