by Louella Desiderio – The Philippine Star, 25 Nov 2021
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is pushing for greater cooperation with other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as with the European Union in promoting the digital economy.
During the Pilipinas Conference 2021 organized by Stratbase – ADR Institute, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the DTI supports international initiatives on digital economy and trade including the acceleration of ASEAN digital transformation through the Bandar Seri Begawan Roadmap which articulates and concretizes the region’s commitment to become a leading digital economy.
“In particular, we recognize the importance of greater cooperation among countries, in this case with other member states, in supporting the digital economy through a possible digital economic partnership agreement,” he said.
He said this type of agreement may provide an enabling environment for digital technologies and support digital capabilities toward the digital era of trade.
He said the Philippines would also welcome increased engagement with the EU on this front given its role as a world leader in this area.
“We see a lot of complementarities in this exercise especially that the Philippines is strong in the service sector such as business services and professional services, the growth of which are directly conducive to the advancement in technologies,” he said.
While the pandemic curtailed economic activities, he said there was an acceleration in the digital economy through the intensified use of online platforms and significant growth in e-commerce.
He said the Philippines has been working on promoting greater adoption of the digital economy through policies.
Earlier this year, the DTI released the e-commerce roadmap which seeks to increase the sector’s contribution to the economy and the number of enterprises online.
Lopez said the DTI also continues to help in the digitalization of micro, small and medium enterprises by linking them with e-commerce platforms, as well as in bringing key government services online.
Beyond the digital economy, he said the DTI wants to see greater engagement with the EU in efforts on sustainable development.
“We are pleased to note that the EU is also a leader on this front, and we would also welcome closer engagement with the EU in this area, possibly through the resumption of the Philippines-EU free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations,” he said.
As the Philippines is positioning the country as a hub for manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and a center for training and education in the region, he said there is a compelling reason for the EU to strengthen ties with the Philippines through the FTA.
The last round of talks for the FTA between the Philippines and the EU were held in February 2017.
The Philippines is a beneficiary of the EU’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) which allows the country’s 6,274 products to enter the bloc at zero duty.
Lopez said GSP+ has given an impetus for foreign companies to invest in the Philippines, and benefited EU firms that have production facilities in the country.
“To stabilize this engagement, it may be well to consider now a more secure and predictable business environment through an FTA with the EU,” he said.