PH urges APEC to keep trade ‘free, open and fair’

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    The Philippines joined other economies of the Asia-Pacific in the call to keep trade free, open, and fair through collective efforts to enhance trade facilitation by avoiding actions such as non-tariff barriers, including export and import restrictions that add burden and costs for consumers and traders particularly micro, small and medium enterprises.

    This position was relayed by Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Virtual Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) Meeting on COVID-19 over the weekend.

    Lopez also emphasized the need to facilitate the cross-border movement of people as restrictions to travel ease.

    He said free and open trade should be complemented with fairness to maintain public support for trade and for keeping open markets to get through this crisis.

    “Any form of financial assistance should not end up as prohibited forms of subsidies that may distort international trade, confer undue advantage and in the long-term exacerbate concerns on unfair trade and prevent us from adequately addressing the crisis,” Lopez said,

    The Philippines also highlighted the important role of the digital economy and innovation in the new normal.

    Lopez said more work needs to be done in areas such as data privacy, consumer trust, intellectual property protection and enforcement, and cybersecurity.

    Lopez also stressed the need to provide support for MSMEs and other vulnerable groups, particularly through initiatives on financial inclusion, to help them recover.

    “We should provide more support and assistance for our MSMEs, the biggest sector imperiled by the pandemic. They need our support to adopt to new business models and acquire digital tools and skills if they are to survive the crisis,” Lopez said.

    The MRT meeting focused the discussions on how trade can contribute to efforts to address the current health and economic crisis and fast-track the path for economic recovery.