Pinoy MSMEs urged to avail free int’l trade legal service

Philippine micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) who want to expand their market overseas, especially in highly-developed markets such as Switzerland, the European Union (EU) and the United States (US), were urged to avail free legal service provided by international trade lawyers.

Philippine Trade and Investments Center (PTIC) – Geneva Commercial Attache Magnolia M. Uy cited international law firm Sidley Austin LLP’s Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Program to help poor, rural and disadvantaged communities by providing free legal support to MSMEs and market-focused non-government organizations (NGOs). Through technical guidance and hand-holding, MSMEs can benefit from, among others, legal trade advice on market access requirements, as well as better understanding intellectual property rights and patents for innovative ideas.

For many MSMEs around the world, legal barriers are among the key hindrances to trade. Since the program’s introduction in 2012, however, over 120 MSMEs from more than 30 countries have benefitted from timely and relevant legal trade advice. These include, among others, an Indonesian chocolate producer overcoming challenges in the EU market because its formula has to meet EU’s minimum cocoa requirement; shea producers who are unable to sell products containing shea to Indian buyers because of regulatory restrictions; and an African clean cook stove enterprise entangled in an intellectual property dispute with a Chinese company.

Further to this, the program works toward enabling more MSMEs in the developing countries to participate in e-commerce by helping them address constraints. E-commerce has always been touted as a key enabler for MSMEs worldwide to participate in global trade. However, it entails legal requirements in order to be realized. Among top considerations that MSMEs need to address are: effective privacy policy that protects producers and buyers during the online transaction; online business transactions that must be carried out on the basis of enforceable and internationally recognized buyer-seller contracts; and intellectual and market access requirements.

Eligible Philippine MSMEs interested in the program were urged to avail of the pro bono support through the assistance of Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) in Geneva.

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