KEEPING global and regional supply chains open for trade facilitation amid the pandemic is key to economic recovery in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region, said the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (DTI).
Commerce Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told fellow trade ministers at the 6th Belt and Road Summit on Wednesday that the Philippines is prioritizing the continued flow of goods and services amid restrictions due to the pandemic.
“For the Philippines, therefore, it is important to support initiatives that keep markets open and ensure the free flow of essential goods and services by reducing unnecessary trade measures,” he explained.
The head of the DTI said that the guarantee of trade flows would further strengthen the multilateral cooperation of the regional bloc.
Citing the Philippines, Lopez pointed out that the government has not imposed export restrictions on essential goods, including personal protective equipment and medical devices.
“It might be useful for the Belt and Road parties to consider a similar agreement with ASEAN to show our stakeholders our collective effort to ensure that supply chains remain open regardless of either the pandemic and that essential goods remain available for our peoples, ”he said.
One initiative supporting the sentiment of the DTI is the Asean MoU on the implementation of non-tariff measures on essential products, Lopez said.
“It calls on ASEAN member countries to refrain from introducing or maintaining restrictive measures on trade in essential goods, which is essential to maintain a resilient supply chain while ensuring that trade in goods Essentials continues to be free to meet the needs of ASEAN businesses as well as its citizens, ”he explained.
Asean Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi agreed that a regional effort is needed to overcome the challenges of Covid-19. He said the regional bloc was “determined to stay the course on regional integration efforts, keep markets open for trade and investment, and ensure our supply chains stay connected.”
In fact, Lim said the region is currently developing a framework for supply chain efficiency and resilience, which is anchored in digital technology.
“There is no doubt that the digitization of the supply chain can create and integrate an ecosystem and become a key driver to achieve more sustainable economic growth,” he said.
The ASEAN official stressed that member countries should maximize the regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) as they seek a path to recovery.
For his part, Lopez said they continue to encourage the business sector to take advantage of RCEP and other free trade agreements (FTAs). He explained that this boosts both trade and investment, allowing even micro, small and medium enterprises to participate in the global value chain.
“With this stable and predictable business environment, participating countries can encourage more investment, as investors are confident that the trade rules will follow what is committed under the agreement and are not subject to voluntary changes. that could negatively affect their businesses, ”Lopez said.
One of the largest venues for economic cooperation, RCEP has been signed by 10 ASEAN member states and five ASEAN Free Trade Agreement partners – Australia, China, Japan, Korea and New Zealand – in November of last year.
The RCEP region accounts for 29% or $ 25.8 trillion of global gross domestic product, 30% of the world’s population, and 25% ($ 12.7 trillion) of global trade in goods and services, DTI noted.