‘PH still short of TPP readiness’

March 17, 2016 9:15 pm

WHILE the Philippines has made progress in some key trade-related areas, the country still falls short of readiness to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), according to a joint report by two US groups.

On Wednesday, the United States Chamber of Commerce and the United States Agency for International Development Trade-Related Assistance to Development Project (USAid- Trade Project) presented the Integrative TPP Report and tackled how ready the Philippines is in terms of adhering to TPP provisions and rules.

Some of the TPP concerns discussed in the report include competition policy, the telecommunications sector, rules of origin and operational certification, intellectual property, and trade in the services sector.

The US-led TPP is a trade agreement formally signed last February 4 by 12 member economies, and which focuses on reducing tariffs, lowering the overall cost of trade, and reducing non-tariff barriers to expand trade among the pact’s participants.

The twelve member economies are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam. The 12 TPP member countries have a combined population of 800 million and are projected to account for 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and 30 percent of global trade.

The government has long expressed a desire to join the trade agreement, seeing the TPP as the Philippines’ gateway to greater access to the markets of North and South America.

Francis de Leon, an international trade consultant and lecturer, said during a panel discussion at the event that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) “should convene with experts” and other concerned agencies and organizations to work on its gaps in some of the TPP requirements.

With the recent creation of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) safeguarding the competitive landscape in businesses, Glenda Reyes, lead of USAID-Trade Project’s Trade and Investment Policy, said that the Philippines is “compliant with TPP obligations” in terms of competition policy.

But one of the pressing concerns that the country should address is the duopolistic and expensive telecommunications sector.

“The quality of service [our telecom providers] remains poor despite being expensive compared to our neighbors,” Reyes said.

But these issues can be fixed, de Leon said, as the country still has months to prepare for its application to join the trade agreement.

If the Philippines was not able to join the TPP, the country may see a loss of 0.2 percent of GDP and 0.5 percent of total exports, according to a World Bank report.

In addition to the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Colombia and Indonesia have also expressed intentions to join the TPP.