22 May 2015

APEC News Releases

Philippines should improve human capital to be competitive, says official
(BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan) The Philippines must develop its human capital by orienting it toward science and technology to enable the country to compete in the global market, a foreign affairs official has said.

“Everything boils to human capital development. As I have said before, we cannot compete unless we capacitate ourselves,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario said during a press conference here Thursday.

Del Rosario, who chairs the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation 2015 Senior Officials’ Meeting (APEC 2015 SOM), was asked by reporters how the Philippines could compete with other APEC member economies as the trade bloc moves towards liberalization.

The country’s education program, she said, must give emphasis to science and technology courses, for instance engineering and mathematics.

“If you just look at the statistics of CHED (Commission on Higher Education), the number of graduates in these fields is so little, and for me, that is something that we should address,” she said.

She pointed out that for the country to be competitive, it should focus more on science and technology rather than the arts.

While other economies are producing smartphones, androids, smart bracelets, and smart cars, the country talks about singers, dancers and animators, she noted.

“It is different because sometimes, when we talk about creativity, we talk of our dancers, our singers, our animators. That is a different field,” she said.

“But I’m talking about the innovative fields that are really hard science and hard technology. And this is where wealth comes from,” del Rosario said, citing the success of Korea’s Samsung in overtaking Taiwan’s HDC; and how because of innovation, Nokia, once a leading cellphone and gadget manufacturer, has been pushed out of competition.

She further said that to improve the country’s agricultural sector, it must become science-based and Filipino farmers must take research studies on farming seriously to increase their yield.

“We can have more resilient products, so that our rice stalks are not easily felled by floods, so that our fruits do not easily rot, so that everything we produce from land could compete with other products,” she stressed.

She also emphasized that farmers need to abandon traditional farming methods.

With climate change, the country needs to do research on the viability of its agricultural products to enable them to survive rains and droughts, which are real challenges in agriculture, she said. PND (as)

Trade officials’ meeting to focus on multilateral trading system, regional integration, says Trade Secretary
(BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan) Officials attending the Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting on Saturday and Sunday will tackle a variety of issues centering on growth, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo has said.

The one-and-a-half day MRT meeting will consist of a number of meetings as well as social functions, Secretary Domingo said during a press briefing here Friday.

He said they have invited representatives of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), chaired by Doris Magsaysay-Ho, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Pacific Island Forum to join the meeting.

The MRT meeting will focus on three main areas: support for multilateral trading system (World Trade Organization), regional economic integration, and micro, small and medium enterprises’ (MSMEs) participation in regional and global markets.

Giving special attention to MSMEs and their inclusion to the global value chain is the Philippines’ priority for this particular meeting, said Domingo.

On supporting the multilateral trading system, he said World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevedo will report on the progress of the implementation of the Bali package, including the agreement on trade facilitation from the post-Bali work plan, as well as preparations for the 10th WTO ministerial conference to be held in Nairobi, Kenya in December this year.

Domingo noted that 2015 is an important year for the WTO, being the 20th anniversary of its establishment.

“The Philippines expects a strong manifestation from ministers of their support for the WTO,” he said.

Topics to be discussed under regional economic integration include the Free Trade Area in the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), information-sharing on WTO plus elements on Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), concrete outcome for the achievement of the APEC Bogor Goals, connectivity, and the implementation of the APEC goods list.

On MSMEs, the Philippines will strongly push for their integration, Domingo said, noting that the country is pushing for an action agenda that will be discussed during the MRT meeting this weekend.

“We are trying to push in particular the distinction between micro and small and medium enterprises,” he said.

“That distinction is important because the type of interventions required to assist micro and small enterprises and to bring them into the global trade fold, the interventions, may be different.”

Organizers have also incorporated an MRT Chief Executive Officers (CEO) special session, scheduled on Sunday morning. The meeting will serve as a venue for APEC trade ministers and the private sector to talk about various issues.

He said the discussion could include talks on SME participation in the global value chain. PND (as)

APEC Trade ministers to work toward adoption of Boracay action agenda to globalize micro, small firms
Trade ministers of the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) will focus discussions on the Philippines’ priorities on continuing initiatives to globalize micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that support the adoption of the proposed Boracay Action Agenda, when they meet on May 23 to 24.

“Basically, we want MSMEs to have a larger share, not only of the regional and global value chains, but to participate directly in cross border trade,” Luis Catibayan, director of the Philippine Bureau of Import Services (BIS), said during a press briefing.

Catibayan said the action agenda outlines initiatives to make the regulatory environment conducive to the growth of MSMEs, noting that many APEC economies have identified access to finance as a major issue facing these companies.

“We want support for financing for MSMEs, we want to strengthen financial institutions to support them. For example, institutions will provide innovation support for MSMEs and a number of other things,” he added.

Catibayan said the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment recognizes the need to foster these companies’ participation in the regional and global markets, which is consistent with the Department of Trade and Industry’s push to support the sector.

The trade official further said that APEC economies welcome the program of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) supporting inclusive and resilient growth for all, particularly for MSMEs.

The APEC underscores the need to strengthen the capacity of these companies to cope with natural disasters, he said.

“Disasters affect MSMEs and it has been found that many of them cannot go back to business once disasters hit them,” he added. PNA (ldv)

Palace to continue to push for peaceful resolution despite tension in West Philippine Sea
Malacañang has reiterated its determination to push for a peaceful resolution to the West Philippine Sea issue, despite tension brewing between the United States and China, after the Chinese Navy repeatedly warned a US surveillance plane as it flew over the contested waters last Wednesday.

“Dahil sa pinakahuling insidente, nagiging matingkad ang reyalidad ng pagkakaroon ng tensyon at hindi naman natin nais na lumala pa itong tensyon. Habang kinikilala natin na mayroong tensyon, pursigido pa rin tayo at determinado pa rin tayong isulong ang ating posisyon sa pamamagitan ng pagtalima sa international law,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during Friday’s press briefing at the Palace.“Patuloy na tatalima ang Pilipinas sa UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) at sa diwa ng Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, at patuloy din po tayong makikipag-ugnayan sa mga miyembro ng ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) sa prinsipyo ng ASEAN centrality at sa paghubog ng isang legally binding Code of Conduct,” he added.

He also did not discount the possibility that the issue would be brought up during President Benigno S. Aquino III’s upcoming visit to Japan.

“Sa mga pagkakataon na kung saan ang ating Pangulo ay nakikipagpulong sa iba’t ibang pinuno ng mga gobyerno at estado ay napag-uusapan ito dahil talaga namang ito ay isang mahalagang reyalidad ng kasalukuyang sitwasyong pandaigdig, lalong-lalo na dito sa bahagi natin ng daigdig. At sa lahat din ng mga forum ng ASEAN at APEC—‘yung sa APEC kasama rin ang Japan diyan—ay natutukoy din naman ito, kaya hindi natin maisasantabi ang posibilidad na tatalakayin din nila ito sa kanilang pag-uusap,” Secretary Coloma said.

In an exclusive report on Thursday, CNN said the Chinese Navy told the US aircraft to leave the area eight times as it flew over the artificial islands that China has been building in the disputed territory.

China claims sovereignty over most of the contested area but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

The Philippines has filed a memorial before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) against China but the latter has refused to take part in the proceedings. PND (ag)

China enters new norm of economic growth, says Chinese official
(BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan) China’s economy has entered a new norm by shifting gear to a more manageable level to effectively steer its long-term economic growth, a Chinese official said on Friday.

“When we say new normal, we mean that’s China’s economy is shifting gear from high speed to medium to high speed,” Ambassador Tang Guoqiang, the chair of the China Committee of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), said.

“That means that we purposely reduced our growth rate, not only in the next two years but I think in the coming decades as well.”

Tang, who is participating in the ongoing APEC discussions here, said it is understandable for people to have some concerns because China has become the number two economy in the world.

Any change in China’s economy will affect the region, as well as the world, he said, noting however that the world should look at China’s economy in a comprehensive and deeper way.

Part of China’s shift in its economy is moving from an extensive model that emphasizes skills and speed to a more intensive one that emphasizes quality and efficiency, he said.

On external economic trade relations, Tang said the Chinese economy has also transitioned from being driven merely by export to being export and investment-oriented.

China’s economy grew by 7.4 percent last year with a 7 percent increase in labor productivity and a 4.8 percent decrease in energy intensity, he said, adding that the share of domestic consumption in its gross domestic product (GDP) has also risen, while its services sector has expanded at a faster pace and the economy’s efficiency continues to improve.

“So, when we look at the Chinese economy, we should not focus on growth rate only. As the economy continues to grow in size, around 8 percent of growth would be quite impressive,” Tang said.

“It is fair to say that the Chinese economy is highly resilient and has much potential and gives us enough room to leverage a lot of policy tools,” he said.

“Having said that, China will continue to be responsive to the new trend and take initiatives to shape the new normal in our favor.”

The PECC is a tripartite partnership of senior individuals from business and industry, government, academic and other intellectual circles freely discussing current practical policy issues of the Asia-Pacific region.

It regularly develops and advocates regional policy initiatives to aid in the stable economic development of the region.

Established in 1980, the PECC now has 26 Member Committees, including one associate member, and two institutional members. PND (as)

Philippines to push for e-commerce platform for APEC  micro, small, medium enterprises at trade meeting
(BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan) The Philippines will propose an e-commerce platform to be used by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) across Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies to help them participate in global trade, during the APEC trade meeting here on May 23 to 24.

Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo pointed out that the current rules of trade make it difficult for these companies to join global trade, especially in availing of the benefits of free trade agreements (FTAs).

During the pre-Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) press briefing here Friday, Domingo said that most FTAs require a certificate of origin (COO) for them to export and avail of a zero tariff rate, a cumbersome procedure, especially for smaller companies.

He said an e-commerce platform, which could be an existing one, can incorporate these rules “so that these become simplified.”

“Not all of them can actually participate in global trade, they might not have the right quality, the right product. For those who qualify to export, we should really develop a channel for them to be able to do it in a really easy manner,” he noted.

Domingo said that beneficiaries of the global value chain (GVC) are primarily medium enterprises that have the sophistication to deal with the demands of being part of these value chains.

“In the Philippines’ case, MSMEs account for over 95 percent of all enterprises. And many of them are left out in terms of being able to participate in global trade,” he added.

The trade official said that apart from the e-commerce platform initiative, APEC trade ministers will also discuss efforts to increase the level of automation and support for the trade facilitation agreement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) aimed at simplifying the process in cross-border trade.

“We need to come up with programs and new policies and new rules, new regulations to be able to make it easier for the MSMEs to participate in global trade,” he said.

Domingo expressed optimism that APEC trade ministers will adopt the Boracay Action Agenda to foster MSMEs’ participation in regional and global markets, a Philippine priority for this meeting.

“We have spent considerable efforts on this, it is not yet completed, discussions are still ongoing. And we are hoping that a strong statement or decision can come from the MRT… so that a statement can also be made in time or a decision be made in time during the Leaders’ Meeting in November,” he added.

Domingo further said that the MRT meeting will focus on support for the multilateral trading system and the regional economic integration.

“We hope that the (trade) ministers will adopt and express support, which have been done before, for the conclusion of the trade facilitation agreement and also the conclusion of the Doha round,” he added. PNA (ldv)