THE government expects to highlight progress in economic reforms as well as its aggressive infrastructure program when the World Trade Organization (WTO) conducts its fifth trade policy review.
“This fifth trade policy review will be an opportunity not only to highlight the country’s impressive economic growth but also to share critical policy reforms and aggressive infrastructure program being undertaken by the Duterte administration,” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a statement over the weekend.
The review will take place in Geneva on March 26 and 28.
The previous review conducted in 2012 touched on the country’s stalled investment potential, among other issues, which was blamed on infrastructure bottlenecks.
“It also signals that the Philippine government is actively engaging the international community, self-confident in the policies we are implementing,” Mr. Lopez added.
The review in Geneva follows last year’s visit by the WTO secretariat to the Philippines to gather more information for the Report on Philippine Trade Policy to be presented at the meetings.
The third-party report was supplemented by a counterpart Philippine Government Report submitted in December.
Ahead of the Geneva meeting, these reports are farmed out to member countries that can raise further questions or comments on the Philippines.
Twenty-two countries including US and China have submitted questions that range from the country’s tariff structure, restrictions on investments, import licensing requirements, the rice tariffication process as well as those indirectly related to trade such as gender equality and visa availments.
The Philippines has responded to these queries in writing.
“The review process, while allowing other WTO members to seek clarification on our domestic policies, presented a good opportunity for national agencies to reflect internally on our trade and investment regime in the context of our commitment to the WTO and more importantly our greater objective to make trade more inclusive so that, as President Rodrigo R. Duterte has clearly and repeatedly articulated, no one is left behind,” Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said.
Mr. Rodolfo, who will lead the Philippine delegation, will be joined by senior officials of the Departments of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Labor, the Board of Investments, the National Food Authority, the Food and Drug Administration, the Intellectual Property Office and officials dealing with government procurement.
The WTO, of which the Philippines has been a member since 1995, conducts periodic trade policy reviews of member economies.
For developing countries like the Philippines, the review is conducted every six years. — Janina C. Lim