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Simplify trade process for SMEs, Asean urged

Publication Date : 26-08-2014


The Philippines will push anew for the simplification of rules and processes during a regional economic ministers’ meeting in Myanmar, to allow local small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to benefit from free trade agreements and the liberalisation of cross-border flows throughout the region.

Philippine Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo on Friday said this would be on the agenda of the Asean Economic Ministers Meeting in Myanmar, which began last Aug. 24 and ends on Aug. 28.

“As always, our push is for SME trade facilitation, so it will be easier for our SMEs to trade with other companies in other Asean countries. We need to simplify the rules for the SMEs,” said Domingo, who flew to Myanmar on Saturday. “This should however be a regional effort, meaning it should be implemented across the region.”

Since early this year, the trade chief has been saying that the current rules and regulations governing free trade agreements and other bilateral agreements are largely meant for the big companies.

“We have to start making changes to ensure that SMEs can participate in [this cross-border flows] in an easy manner. We need to make the rules simple for small companies so they can feel the effect or benefits of the free trade agreements,” Domingo explained, citing as examples the industries of garments, handicraft and furniture, whose players may skip certain application processes to enable easier access.

Also, Domingo revealed that as many as 21 meetings among the 10 member states of the Asean and its eight dialogue partners, were expected to take place during the 46th Asean Economic Ministers Meeting. These would include one-on-one bilateral meetings and subcommittee group meetings.

Issues concerning the forthcoming establishment of the Asean Economic Community in 2015 will also be discussed, along with post-AEC 2015 scenarios and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

RCEP is a bigger free trade agreement being negotiated among the 10 member states of the Asean and its six trading partners: Japan, China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.

Once in place, the RCEP may turn into the world’s biggest trading bloc, as this group of nations reportedly will account for 40 percent of the world’s trade, with a combined GDP of about $17 trillion.

The main goal of the RCEP is to “create a comprehensive trade agreement that will facilitate economic integration between all the countries involved.” Main negotiating issues involved are trade in goods and services, investment, economic and technical cooperation and dispute settlement.

Like the AEC, the RCEP is expected to be concluded by the end of 2015.


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