Trade pacts boost market access for agri products

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    The Philippines needs to capitalize on existing trade pacts and implement Ease of Doing Business Law to expand market access for agricultural products, both domestically and abroad.

    A policy brief on agribusiness published by The Arangkada Philippines Project (TAPP) administered by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines said new free trade agreements (FTAs) and other preferential trade privileges provide unprecedented market access.

    “To take advantage of new market opportunities, measures are needed to improve market information, technology transfer, marketing, export promotion, and to broaden trade facilitation,” it said.

    The paper said priority should be given to high-value export winner crops, such as banana, mango, pineapple, and coconut products.

    The paper also underscored the importance of implementing the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act (RA 11032) that aims to dramatically reduce barriers to entry and participation, especially among micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

    The law provides a maximum of 20 days from application to approval of even the most complex permits, assuming all paperwork is in order.

    “This will be an enormous boon for many small food enterprises, who have lamented the slow pace approval of product registration with Department of Health-Food and Drug Administration (DOH-FDA) – a process that can take years,” the paper said.

    The paper said it is also imperative to improve logistics and other services through policy reforms, such as amendment of the Public Services Law.

    Also key are policy reforms such as limited expanded amendment of the cabotage law, removal of fees and taxes, and classification of Chassis Ro-Ro (Cha-Ro) as part of regular Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro-Ro) service.

    “The government needs to prioritize efforts to reduce port handling costs, which remain disproportionately higher than for other countries in the region,” it added.

    Expanding market access is among the key recommendations to boost the agribusiness sector. Others include improving access to finance, freeing up the land market, and infrastructure development.

    “Enhancements to the BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) Act as proposed in the PPP (public-private partnership) bill could facilitate more private sector investment in rural infrastructure,” the paper said. – Philexport News & Features