PH bats for more inclusive services accord

Published October 15, 2021, 2:31 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Philippines has batted for a transparent and predictable regulatory environment in the services sector more than providing access to services markets amid an uneven progress among economies in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez made his point for a more inclusive services deal as the results of the APEC Services Competitiveness Roadmap (ASCR) Midterm Review showed an uneven progress among the APEC economies and further exacerbated by the pandemic.

Lopez said that the region can do more as ASCR Midterm Review has provided some insightful ideas on how to make the benefits of implementation more sustainable and far-reaching.

“More than providing access to services markets, it is imperative that we also provide a transparent and predictable regulatory environment to help services firms engage in the international market,” said Lopez at the virtual APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC)-APSC Public-Private Dialogue.

With that, the Philippines trade chief said that it may be worth considering the work the WTO undertook to establish disciplines on services domestic regulations under the WTO Joint Statement Initiative discussions. “Although considered as a plurilateral arrangement, it is encouraging to see that a group of like-minded members are ready to commit to a shared goal of mitigating the unintended trade restrictive effects of regulatory measures in their economies,” he said.

“I strongly believe that disciplines for the good governance of our services markets are essential to creating new trade opportunities for firms. This is particularly true for our MSMEs who are often burdened by uncertain and costly requirements and procedures,” he said as he commended the APEC Group on Services for its achievement in endorsing the “Statement Encouraging Completion of the WTO Services Domestic Regulation.”

He said that the strengthened resolve to implement and reinvigorate APEC’s services agenda will only demonstrate the region’s commitment to provide an enabling business environment for services firms. He likewise expressed confidence that APEC can still achieve a lot to implement the Services Roadmap until 2025.

He said the review on the implementation of the APEC Services Competitiveness Roadmap will give implementors of this Roadmap an honest assessment in government, businesses, academia, and with industry experts to help build a more competitive services sector, one that will help chart a path to a resilient and inclusive economy.

He said the review as timely with economies reopening their businesses, reorganizing, and people are adapting. “We should set a clear direction for our services sectors in a post pandemic world.”

“The services sector plays an increasingly important role in the global economy as it generates opportunities for greater income, productivity, employment, investment and trade. In 2019, the sector accounted for 65 percent of global GDP,” said Lopez.

According to the APEC Policy Support Unit’s report, services constitute more than half of GDP in majority of the APEC economies. The APEC region has also established its significance to global trade with total global services exports valued at $2.4 trillion in 2019, representing more than a third of the world’s total services exports.

In the Philippines, services is one of our strongest and fastest growing sectors. Data showed that the country’s services exports recorded a steady growth from 2009 to 2019, peaking at $41 billion worth of exports in 2019. It also accounted for 58.4 percent of total employment in the same year .

Recognizing these realities and the sector’s huge untapped potential, Lopez said the Philippines spearheaded the crafting of a new APEC services agenda in 2015 to bring common direction and better coherence in strategies to enhance the competitiveness of the services sector.

Through the 2015 APEC Services Cooperation Framework or ASCF, the Roadmap was finalized in 2016 in Peru, and committed all economies to develop the region’s services sector as an enabler of economic growth and inclusion. With a set of overarching targets and collective actions, APEC set the target for 2025 to increase its competitiveness in the services sector.