THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) are preparing for a prolonged US-China trade war, ultimately seeking to capture more foreign investment while pursuing deeper regional integration, improving approval processes, and helping start-ups and small businesses succeed.

The economic team is also preparing measures to assist any workers that may be displaced by a slowdown in the export economy.

“The Philippines is not as vulnerable as other countries (to a trade war), as exports only account for 15% of our GDP. But a prolonged trade war will eventually affect our export growth,” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a statement Wednesday.

He was speaking after the DTI and NEDA briefed the Cabinet on Sept. 4, during which the two agencies pitched a “whole-of-government” approach to dealing with the US-China dispute.

He also called the trade war “an opportunity for the Philippines to attract more export-oriented manufacturing foreign direct investment. However, it is necessary to address key constraints in attracting investors.”

The long-term goal, DTI said, is to improve fundamental elements of the economy like port, airport, and energy infrastructure, while encouraging the development of startup hubs and improving the education system to prepare future workers for greater automation in the workplace.

Mr. Lopez added that immediate goals focus on promoting the ease of doing business, specifically pushing many transactions online via a Central Business Portal and fully implementing TradeNet, the online platform for trading permits.

DTI also wants to help small businesses strengthening their global links, and improve the standards-setting infrastructure “to create more competitive products and industries.”

DTI also plans to continue existing strategies, including the deepening of regional partnerships through a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and trade agreements in Asia-Pacific countries.

Mr. Lopez noted that the Philippines was the second-best Asian export performer in the second quarter of 2019, with merchandise export growth of 1.2%. Malaysia was the only other economy posting positive growth during the period among the 11 the department tracked. — Jenina P. Ibañez