MSMEs urged to use preferential trade arrangements

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) exporters should take advantage of the Philippines’ preferential trade arrangements to cater to more markets and further contribute to job creation, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

In a statement, the DTI said the need to improve the trade competitiveness of MSMEs was highlighted during the National Trade Facilitation workshop organized by the Bureau of Customs last April 4 to 6, under the ARISE Plus Philippines project.

Funded by the European Union, the ARISE project aims to improve the country’s trade performance and competitiveness to achieve inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction.

Citing 2020 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, DTI assistant secretary Allan Gepty, who serves as ARISE Plus Philippines Technical Working Group chair, said MSMEs have generated more than five million jobs, accounting for 62.66 percent of the country’s total employment.

As a vital contributor to the economy, the DTI is encouraging MSMEs to utilize preferential trade arrangements so they can expand their market reach and level the playing field.

To improve the competitiveness of MSME exporters, the DTI sees the importance of capacity-building for both exporters and government institutions.

Among the trade agreements signed by the Philippines, Gepty cited the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement as important for improved trade facilitation and enhanced market access for exporters.

Signed by the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and trade partners Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand in November 2020, RCEP creates the world’s largest free trade area.

Gepty said the RCEP’s rules of origin has a single set of requirements for ASEAN and its key trading partners to enter each other’s market under mostly duty-free treatment.

“With this, it would be much easier for Philippine exporters to comply with certifications and forms, and avail of preferential arrangement as they need only review and meet RCEP requirements instead of having to study and hurdle the requirements of various FTAs (free trade agreements) depending on the country they intend to export to,” he said.

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