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Speech of the Secretary of Trade and Industry at the APEC 2015 senior officials’ meeting

Speech of Secretary Gregory Domingo at the APEC 2015 Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting

[Delivered at Makati Shangri-la on December 8, 2014]

I’m glad that everyone is here this morning given the news—a lot of news—on the storm that’s supposed to be coming. In fact, I issued a regulation banning this typhoon but it didn’t listen to me. [Laughter]

When the Philippines hosted the APEC in 1996, the leaders launched the Manila Action Plan for APEC or MAPA.

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MAPA specified the first steps of an evolving process toward achieving the Bogor Goals of progressive and comprehensive trade and investment liberalization by 2010 for developed economies and 2020 for developing economies.

MAPA includes initiatives that address concerns on improving market access, both tariff and non-tariff measures; enhancing market access in services; providing an open investment regime; reducing the cost of doing business; building an open and efficient infrastructure; and strengthening economic and technical cooperation.

In the recently concluded Leaders’ Meeting in Beijing , the leaders endorsed an extensive array of measures to build on APEC’s work on trade and investment liberalization and on facilitation and economic cooperation.

The list of issues in this symposium reflects the breath of the interest that we share on the APEC region.

It also reminds us of how far APEC has come since the last time the Philippines hosted APEC in 1996.

Hence, we are looking forward to hosting the meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT), APEC Women and the Economy, and the SME Ministerial Meeting, as well as other equally important Sectoral Ministerial Meetings in the Philippines in 2015.

As incoming chair, the Philippines welcomes your cooperation and support to strengthen APEC and to continue to promote it as a forum that provides practical, relevant, and results-oriented initiatives to fulfill our common goals of development, prosperity, and progress.

I hope that the discussions in this symposium and informal meeting will provide the appropriate background for the 2015 theme of inclusive growth.

While we will continue to look at issues such as FTAAP [Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific], the Bali Package of the WTO, ITA […] the chairmanship of the Philippines next year, in particular for the APEC 2015 MRT and SME Ministerial Meeting, we will put special emphasis on the SME agenda.

Why is the SME agenda important?

From our perspective, the SME agenda is very critical actually not only to APEC, but to the forward movement of global trade in general because SMEs are on of the strongest voices now opposing global trade. That is because they hardly feel the benefits of global trade. Many of the SMEs seed the influx of goods and services into their own markets but find it very cumbersome and difficult to take advantage of the free trade agreements because of the cumbersome rules and procedures.

SMEs, from my perspective, are two different kinds, actually there are many kinds, but the two main ones would be the SMEs that that are part of global value chains. And this has merited some discussion recently in many of the trade forums including in the ASEAN and the APEC. But there is also a more important part. Those are what we refer to in the Philippines as cottage industries. These are the smaller SMEs that may include some micro-enterprises. These are the small business people who have one, two, three, four, five-person type of operations. Some of them produce very good quality products mainly in processing. There are also in handicrafts. There is also an extent in furniture—in many of the production of smaller items. And these are the ones that we need the most [inaudible] For the global SMEs, we would need a different intervention to help them out from the cottage industry SMEs. So, I keep that in mind as we move forward in developing some action plans that we will want to do to help out the SMEs.

We welcome the support of economies on initiatives that focus on trade facilitation for SMEs. It’s really market access that’s lacking for the most part. So we’d like to emphasize really the trade facilitation agenda for SMEs. This would involve upgrades in customs and also simplifying the rules of origin administration and establishment of institutional support systems for SMEs

We are counting on all senior officials to make APEC the “incubator” for active and dynamic SMEs and be enablers in providing SMEs wider access to opportunities for inclusive growth and their integration into the global value chain.

In addition, hosting and chairing the 2015 APEC Women and the Economy will be a vital event for the Philippines as we welcome new landmark initiatives from the United States and Japan to further advance the women’s economic empowerment agenda.

The Philippines encourages all APEC fora to consider incorporating the gender perspective into their working group to foster synergies within and across the APEC region.

In sum, I wish all of you a dynamic and enlightening discussion today as a first step towards producing significant results that will ensure the success of APEC 2015.

We have set important visions for APEC and the time for action starts now.

Thank you very much and have a good day.

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