The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Region 2 together with the Export Marketing Bureau (EMB) recently conducted the Free Trade Agreement information campaign dubbed as "Doing Business in Free Trade Areas" on June 22, 2017 at Crown Hotel, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan.

EMB Assistant Director Agnes Perpetua R. Legaspi discussed the different services of EMB for the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the Philippine Development Program including the discussion on DBFTA.

Among these EMB services were Export Assistance, Business Matching, Export Trade Handlings, Coffee Accreditation and Export Documentation, Exporter Accreditation under the Export Development Act, Market and Product Consultancy, Outbound Business Missions, Inbound Business Missions, Knowledge Processing.

Other major and new programs were also introduced namely: 1.) Philippine Export Development Program, 2.) Doing Business in Free Trade Areas/ Doing Business in the EU using GSP 3.) Regional Interactive Platform for Philippine Exporters (RIPPLES), Halal Expert Industry Development and Promotion Program, and Startup Ecosystem Development Program (SEDP).

In her discussion, Assistant Director Legaspi said the reason why the country participates in FTAs is to maintain the country’s competitiveness, to promote cross-border complementation, sustain the inflow of investments, and for mutual support on issues of common interest.

She explained to the participants the very basic definition of a free trade agreement (FTA) and the ultimate goal of which is to have zero duties on goods that cross borders between the partners. She also elaborated that today, FTAs are wider in scope covering not only goods but also services, investment, and economic cooperation. She explained that in goods, we talk not only of tariff reduction and elimination but also of standards, sanitary & phyto-sanitary requirements, and rules of origin, while in services, she also talked about e-commerce, movement of natural persons, and telecommunications.

Assistant Director Legaspi emphasized that under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, almost all or 99% of tariff lines already have zero tariffs.  Exceptions are products most sensitive to each member economy.  In the case of the Philippines, they are rice and sugar. In her last slide, she shared the true definition of competitiveness, which is the ability to export more value added terms than it imports.

PCCI President Dr. Samuel Garcia said the conduct of the FTA information campaign will make MSMEs become aware and appreciate the benefits of FTAs. He encourages the MSMEs to take full advantage of the benefits for them to become more globally competitive.

Meanwhile, EMB Knowledge Processing Chief, Mr. Vic Soriano discussed the overview of the Tradeline Philippines: Interactive Trade Statistics and Real-time Business Matching Platform. He explained that the objective of the Tradeline Philippines is to develop a more robust online facility that allows information dissemination to both internal and external clients. The online portal will become the main repository of all export-related information in electronic format.

Generalized System of Preference (GSP) was also discussed by Maria Jaena Go-Aco, EMB Senior Trade Industry Development Specialist. She discussed the benefits and types of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), export products of the Philippines, GSP of the European Union (EU), United States (US) and Russian Federation (RF).

An open forum and one-on-one mentoring was also conducted during the event.Among the issues raised were on how to harmonize the products per province, how to sustain and develop the market, how to acquire Halal certification, what are the products that we can sell through the FTA, and the export procedures. A one on one mentoring was also conducted at the end of the session. Concerns raised were on wood industry regulations, how to improve shelf life of bibingka, and how to help the MSMEs financially. AD Agnes Legaspi explained that MSMEs engaged in furniture must have a legal source of wood and SME engaged in bibingka/ kakanin production must coordinate with DOST on how to improve the shelf life and must acquire LTO. She also informed the Regional Office that she will propose to EMB the conduct of a Financing Forum through the Philippine Export Competitiveness Program to address the financial issues of the entrepreneurs.

A total of 211 participants composed of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) from the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino, and Nueva Vizcaya, representatives from the local government units, academe, private organizations, and representatives from various government agencies (DOLE, BFAR, TESDA, DOST) attended the Information session.