Monday, February 11, 2013

Advantage of the free trade agreements

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has conducted an information drive to entice local exporters and manufacturers to take advantage of the free trade agreements (FTAs) the country has forged with several countries.

DTI Undersecretary for Industry and Trade Policy Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. said that through the Department's Doing Business in Free Trade Areas (DBFTA) outreach program, the DTI conducted a total of 116 DBFTA information sessions attended by 11,169 participants representing 5,833 companies. The total number of DBFTA sessions exceeded by 16 percent the 100-session goal the DTI set for 2012.

Currently, the Philippines has FTAs with the ASEAN, Japan, Korea, China, India, Australia and New Zealand. These agreements give manufacturers of Philippine goods ready access and preferential tariff rates into their markets.

Cristobal said the sessions provided both rural- and urban-based manufacturers and entrepreneurs guidelines and requirements to help them export produce world-standard goods, guide them in finding buyers for their products, and the benefits they can derive from the FTAs.

According to program manager Director Senen Perlada of the Bureau of Export Trade Promotion (BETP), the Trade department also conducted 48 focus group discussions (FGDs) with different product sectors including food, home-style, jewelry, cosmetics, motor vehicles, appliances, and chemicals. It also invited the services sector to these FGDs to help the education, tourism, health and wellness, information and communications technology, professional services and logistics industries to prepare for a more open regional market with the coming of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Perlada said among the DTI's other activities promoting the DBFTA program included the 12 information sessions on particular FTAs. A department team also participated in the first Philippine, Australia, New Zealand Business Forum. Individual sessions focused on the Asean FTA, the Asean-China FTA, the Asean-Korea FTA, the Asean-India FTA, and the Asean-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement as well as the Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

Five information sessions were conducted in partner economies including DBFTA sessions with 17 Japanese importers in Osaka, Japan as part of the Food Outbound Business Mission to that country. In 2013, the DTI is looking at organizing a separate DBFTA session with Japanese customs brokers since they facilitate the shipment of Japanese traders.

Because the academic community plays a strategic role in furthering the goals of the DTI's DBFTA program, the DTI conducted 12 information sessions with academic institutions located in different areas of the country and signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) with nine of them to expand the department's capacity for future FTA advocacy campaign.

The nine academic institutions are the Mountain Province State University, the Columban College in Zambales, Ateneo de Davao, Xavier University and Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro City, La Salle University in Ozamiz, Mindanao State University in General Santos, Silliman University, and the University of the Philippines in the Visayas.

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