by Secretary Ramon Lopez
The Philippines, as one of the founding members of ASEAN, takes pride in hosting this year’s regional meet, which has the theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World.” Given that the organization is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, we are also fortunate that we’ve been provided with an opportunity to strategically champion our advocacies within the region.
On top of our agenda is steering the ASEAN to full economic integration through greater trade and investment among our fellow ASEAN Member States.
Despite concerns that our country would lose in terms of trade or employment opportunities because of the ASEAN integration, the Philippines is actually well positioned to take advantage of it. Among our country’s many strengths, we have our robust economic performance, improving competitiveness, and a huge supply of English-speaking workforce.
The integration will likewise provide an opportunity for Philippine industries and services to become a major player in the ASEAN region, even as it offers a bigger market for Philippine businesses.
Through our chairship, we also wish to reach the conclusion for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that will link the ASEAN–an economic powerhouse with a market of 600 million people–to its six Dialogue Partners. This would create an even bigger market of 3.5 billion people.
What does this all mean for the average Filipino? For consumers, this means more variety of goods and services at cheaper prices. For producers, this means cheaper prices of imports–which translates to more competitive prices for their products. For investors, this means having a single production base, even with the ASEAN’s diversity with regard to capital, expertise, labor, and resources.
Of course, we cannot forget our micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs), who are at the front and center of our current trade agenda. For them, integration means Philippine products and services having easier access to the larger markets of the ASEAN and RCEP, while also heightening their competitiveness.
Yours truly will serve as the chair of the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting even as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) chairs the ASEAN Committee on Business and Investment Promotion (CBIP). The latter committee will engage the international business community, the government, and other parties, as well as organize business and investment-related activities.
Last January 24, DTI officially unveiled business programs and events that will complement the Philippines’ priorities under the AEC pillar. These are regulatory coherence; micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); innovation; and women and youth.
Among the thematic priorities developed by the Philippines for its ASEAN 2017 hosting, DTI’s priority agenda of “inclusive, innovation-led growth” is poised to champion the MSME mandate in the ASEAN through the following strategic measures: (1) increasing trade and investment; (2) integrating MSMEs in the digital economy; and (3) developing an innovation-driven economy.
In these endeavors, all of you, our partners, can help the government promote the Philippine hosting of ASEAN, as well as the ASEAN identity, to the greater number of Filipinos.