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Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez at the One Country One Voice forum

Industry policy determines trade strategy – DTI chief

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said that industry policy determines trade strategy and shared DTI’s unified approach to spurring trade and investments in DTI’s One Country, One Voice (OCOV) forum last 4 December.

“Essentially, the objective is to develop and strengthen our industries that will generate local employment. Our positions in trade negotiations have to be aligned with our plans in industry development,” Sec. Lopez said.

“What industry do we think will be strategic? What industry should be developed? Where do we have comparative advantage? Then we will put our minds, our support and our programs behind all these industries which we will be promoting” he added.

The trade chief also stressed the importance of trade agreements, since 93% of all exports go to countries with existing agreements with the Philippines.

“President Rodrigo Duterte’s independent foreign policy allowed the Philippines to pursue trade relations with both US and China and helped begin trade relations with non-traditional partners, like Russia and some countries in the Middle East. The Department of Trade and Industry is doing its part to assure that the Philippines is a friend to all,” said Secretary Lopez.

However, he added that trade relations should be fair to both countries: “We, the Philippines, are decent trading partners. We follow the rules and we expect partners to also treat us fairly. Otherwise, we will have no choice but to retaliate—but again still following the rules and procedures for negotiation.”

The Philippines has seven free trade agreements, two bilateral agreements, and 30 existing Joint Economic Cooperation agreements, and is benefiting from Generalized System of Preferences (GSPs) from 10 countries, namely US, EU, Australia, Belarus, Canada, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Russia, and Turkey.

Ambassador Ron Sorini, Former Chief Negotiator for the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), said that for the US, the only serious candidate for free trade agreement negotiations is the Philippines. Amb. Sorini gave a talk on the topic “Identifying the Policy Environment for New Generation FTAs in the New Era of Globalization.”

Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo explained DTI’s “Last Touch Strategy” with the vision for the Philippines to become a strategic manufacturing and export base. This strategy aims to integrate the Philippines into the regional value chain production networks and provide the country with the greatest local value addition and best market access for its products.

To reap the maximum benefits from this strategy, Usec. Rodolfo added that the country must first ensure deep industrial capability in basic industries and have the widest network of supplying industries.

The OCOV forum informed stakeholders about the latest developments in the country’s international trade and investment engagements and revolved around three topics: Philippine development and trade policy; rising global protectionism; and forging ahead through strategic economic partnerships. 

The forum’s speakers include Senators Imee Marcos and Koko Pimentel, Albay Congressman Joey Salceda, Former DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo, DTI Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty, Former USTR Director Kellie Meiman Hock, Solar Philippines President Leandro Leviste, Luen Thai Executive Vice President Sunny Tan, former National Competitiveness Council Co-chair Guillermo Luz, and Ambassador Antonio Basilio. 

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