Business Mirror - 13 November 2023
PHL picks negotiators for trade pillar of IPEF accord
By Cai U. Ordinario
The Philippines has chosen its negotiators to champion the country’s interests under the trade pillar of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).
One of the four major pillars of the IPEF, Trade Pillar or Pillar 1, aims to strengthen economic engagement between the United States and the Indo-Pacific region.
The Framework provides a platform for countries in the region to collaborate in advancing resilient, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth, and aims to contribute to cooperation, stability, and prosperity in the region.
“For the Trade Pillar, IPEF partners will seek to develop high-standard, inclusive, free, fair, and open trade commitments that build upon the rules-based multilateral trading system and create new and creative approaches to trade and technology policies,” Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) said in a statement.
Philexport said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) recently conducted a virtual information drive to introduce the lead negotiators of the Philippines on trade matters.
The DTI’s Bureau of International Relations (BITR) was identified as the lead negotiating body for trade and talk about the key features and intended benefits of each chapter.
The Department of Labor and Employment will be the top negotiator on labor matters, including recognition of the principle of decent work, effective enforcement of labor laws, and encouragement of corporate accountability and compliance with domestic labor laws.
Heading the Philippine panel for environment talks is the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The agency will engage with IPEF peers on a more resource-efficient and circular economy.
Negotiations will also include marine litter and plastic pollution, conservation of forest and biodiversity, enforcement of environment laws, and other issues.
The BITR will also negotiate on the rules and commitments to promote trust in the digital economy, improve access to information, and facilitate the use of digital technology.
The discussions will also figure in inclusivity negotiations, which will cover overlooked segments of society such as women, indigenous peoples, minorities, and MSMEs.
The Department of Agriculture will be the country’s lead negotiator in dealing with IPEF provisions on sustainable agriculture, trade in biotechnology, sanitary phytosanitary (SPS), certification, and export restrictions on food security, among others.
The Anti-Red Tape Authority will spearhead talks on regulatory transparency tools, regulatory cooperation, and related matters while the National Economic and Development Authority will tackle services domestic regulation, which entails facilitating trade in services; adopting measures to streamline; and simplifying authorization procedures for services suppliers.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Competition Commission will lead the Filipino team in competition talks. This chapter seeks to promote competitive markets through provisions covering competition laws, national competition authorities, and cooperation among competition authorities, among others.
The Resource Generation and Management Service will be at the forefront in conversations on promoting technical assistance and economic cooperation.
Finally, the Bureau of Customs will represent the Philippines in trade facilitation dialogues. Focus will be on, among others, transparency in government processes, and digitalization.
The talks will also include the use of electronic advance data for postal shipments, use of a single window for the electronic submission of forms, and the release of goods within six hours from completion of customs clearance.
Launched in May 2022, the IPEF is not a trade agreement but an economic agreement, as it currently does not cover market access, including tariff reductions, for negotiations.
However, the initiative does cover negotiations on a wide range of areas beyond conventional trade agreements and is intended to be a precursor for later negotiations.
IPEF is described as a new approach to regional collaboration with the aim to create a package that balances rules and cooperation and tackle 21st-century issues such as the digitalization of economics, strengthening of supply chain resilience, decarbonization, and clean energy.