The Philippines 5th Trade Policy Review in the WTO

DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, the Philippines’ Chief Negotiator at the WTO, announced that an inter-agency delegation headed by DTI Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo will appear before the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Policy Review Body in Geneva, Switzerland on 26 and 28 March 2018 for the Philippines Fifth Trade Policy Review.


Undersecretary Rodolfo will be joined by senior officials of the Departments of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Labor, Board of Investments, National Food Authority, Food and Drug Administration, Intellectual Property Office and the Government Procurement and Policy, as well as officers of the Philippine Mission to the WTO.


The WTO, of which the Philippines has been a member since 1995, conducts individual trade policy reviews, an exercise in which member countries’ trade and related policies are examined and evaluated at regular intervals.  For developing countries like the Philippines, the review is conducted once every six years.  Substantial developments that may have an impact on the global trading system are also monitored.  The last Philippine review was conducted in 2012.


According to Secretary Lopez, “This fifth trade policy review will be an opportunity not only to highlight the country’s impressive economic growth but also to share critical policy reforms and aggressive infrastructure program being undertaken by the Duterte Administration. It also signals that the Philippine government is actively engaging the international community, self-confident in the policies we are implementing.”


The meeting in Geneva will be a culmination of an intensive process that began last year with the preparation of a Report on Philippine Trade Policy by the WTO Secretariat, which was supplemented by a counterpart Philippine Government Report submitted in December 2017.


Ahead of the meeting in Geneva, 22 countries (including US, China) have submitted questions covering a wide range of trade and economic issues such as the developments in the Philippines’ tariff structure, restrictions on investments, import licensing requirements and the rice tariffication process.  Some questions which were not directly related to trade were also received, such as on gender equality and visa availments.


“The review process, while allowing other WTO Members to seek clarification on our domestic policies, presented a good opportunity for national agencies to reflect internally on our trade and investment regime in the context of our commitment to the WTO and more importantly our greater objective to make trade more inclusive so that, as President Rodrigo Duterte has clearly and repeatedly articulated, no one is left behind.” Undersecretary Rodolfo concluded. END


US-GSP for Philippines approved for 3 years


Washington, D.C.—The United States Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) was reauthorized on 23 March 2018, after President Donald J. Trump signed the Omnibus Spending Bill which included GSP renewal language.


The renewal authorizes the GSP through 31 December 2020 and includes a mechanism that refunds tariffs paid from 01 January 2018 through the reinstatement date of the program. In addition, USTR will be required to submit an annual report to the relevant congressional trade committees on Beneficiaries’ compliance with country-eligibility criteria.


Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez welcomed the reauthorization of the US GSP. “We wish to thank the US Government for the timely renewal of the GSP program, as Philippine exporters will continue to benefit from enhanced market access to the United States under GSP”.


The GSP program covers a total 5,057 products or tariff lines or roughly 47.7% of the 10,600 total US tariff lines:  3,500 of which are open for all Beneficiary Developing Countries (BDC) while an additional 1,500 products are given to the Least-Developed Beneficiary Developing Countries (LDBDC).  Effective 1 July 2017, a total of 23 travel goods articles were added to the program.


Lopez said that the Philippines has enjoyed preferential duty-free entry to the US through the GSP program for a number of products. GSP exports account for 18% of Philippines exports to the US, valued at an estimated US$ 1.59 billion. Top GSP exports to the US include telescopic sights for rifles, spectacle lenses other than glass, new pneumatic radial tires of rubber, non-alcoholic beverages not including fruits and vegetables, and electrical machinery and equipment parts.


The recent approval of the GSP is a triple-win for developing countries, US companies, and American consumers, according to Sec. Lopez.


Meanwhile Trade policy Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo highlighted the importance of the US GSP in the face of a brewing trade clash among bigger countries.  The Philippines utilizes all available tools to maintain—and even improve its preferential access to key markets. This is important not only in ensuring advantage for our exporters but equally critical, to heighten the Philippines’ advantage as location for manufacturing of these products.”


DTI officials cited that in the case of the US, in addition to the DTI’s advocacy for GSP market access, the Philippines stands ready to engage with US authorities to assist our exporters in the face of additional tariffs which the US may impose on certain products. “With respect to the US, the longer term goal is to negotiate and conclude a free trade agreement,” concludes Lopez. It will be recalled that in a recent testimony to the House Ways & Means Committee, US Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer confirmed that US is considering an FTA with the Philippines.

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