By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez has urged the world’s leading consumer products manufacturers Tyson Foods, Procter & Gamble, and Novartis to advance the multinational firms’ business interests of the Philippines.
Lopez met with the leaders of these multinational companies at the sidelines of the 50th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 21-24 where the trade chief also contributed to the three sessions of the forum as Philippine representative together with Philippine Representative to the World Trade Organization Amb. Manuel A.J. Teehankee.
Lopez did not provide details of the meetings with these three MNCs.
According to its website, Tyson Foods is a modern, multi-national, protein-focused food company producing approximately 20 percent of the beef, pork and chicken in the United States in addition to a portfolio of foods under the Tyson®, Jimmy Dean®, Hillshire Farm®, BallPark®, Wright®, Aidell’s® and State Fair® brands.
Tyson Foods is also the leading protein provider to many national restaurant chains, including quick service, casual, mid-scale, and fine dining restaurants. The company reported fiscal 2019 sales of $42.4 billion across beef, pork, chicken and prepared foods segments. One in 5 pounds of chicken, beef, and pork in the US is produced by Tyson Foods.
For Procter & Gamble, the company operates a plant in Laguna where it produces infant diaper pads. Aside from Pampers, P&G’s Laguna complex also produces the multinational’s brand detergents: Tide, Mr. Clean, Ariel, and Bonux, fabric conditioner Downey, dishwashing soap Joy, and disposable feminine pads for the local and export market.
Novartis is one of the fastest growing pharmaceutical firms in the Philippines.
At the sidelines of the WEF, Lopez announced that the Philippines is formally joining the group of WTO Members in developing a multilateral framework for foreign direct investment under the Joint Initiative on Investment Facilitation for Development.
This move is in preparation for the 12th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC12) to be held in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan in June this year. Lopez said that the country will also participate in crafting new rules on the trade-related aspects of e-commerce under the Joint Statement Initiative on Electronic Commerce.
The Philippines was an original signatory of the Joint Statement on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and the Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade. Both were issued at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in December 2017.
While actively joining said Joint Initiatives, the Philippines continues to be a staunch advocate of the Doha Development Agenda, particularly its existing negotiating mandate in agriculture, and this position was reiterated by Secretary Lopez at the Ministerial Meeting of the Cairns Group held in Davos on 23 January 2020.
Lopez also participated in four WTO-related ministerial meetings on 23 and 24 January.
At the ministerial gathering on the Joint Initiative on Investment Facilitation for Development, which seeks to craft new WTO rules to propel investment flows worldwide, Lopez batted for improved transparency and predictability in investment rules, the easing of administrative procedures, the enhancement of international cooperation, sharing of best practices, and prevention of disputes. Lopez announced that the Philippines is joining the 98 other WTO Members in negotiations towards new rules on investment in the WTO.
Lopez, who represented Agriculture Secretary William Dar at a Ministerial Meeting of the Cairns Group, a group of non-subsidizing agricultural exporters that seek to reduce distortions in markets primarily caused by known heavy subsidizers of production and trade, the secretary called on members to improve notifications.
Lopez also appealed for reforms in the area of market access to help countries like the Philippines reverse the damage that highly subsidized farm products from abroad cause Filipino farmers.
At the Ministerial Meeting on Electronic Commerce, Lopez boosted the ongoing drive of more than 80 WTO Members in crafting future rules on e-commerce in the WTO. These rules are founded on the following broad themes: facilitating electronic transmissions, non-discrimination and liability, consumer protection, and transparency and cooperation, among others.
Lopez highlighted the enabling platform that e-commerce presents especially to micro, small and medium enterprises, or MSMEs. The Philippines also joined WTO Members in supporting the extension of the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions until the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, later in June this year.
Lopez shared his views on ongoing reform proposals in the WTO. This covered transparency and notification, the functioning of WTO bodies, and the treatment of developing countries. He also made a pitch for the existing negotiating mandate in agriculture under the 19-year-old Doha Development Agenda (the Doha Round).