Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the government can look into other sectors that can be opened to foreign investors, instead of liberalizing retail trade.
In a chance interview on Tuesday, Lopez told the Philippine News Agency that liberalizing retail trade is not a priority for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
“For DTI, it is not a priority,” Lopez said in Filipino.
“There are still other sectors that need investments that can be liberalized ahead and to update some laws like on public utilities,” he added.
Under the 10th foreign investment negative list (FINL) signed by former President Benigno S. Aquino III, retail-trade enterprises with paid-up capital of less than $2.5 million is one of the 11 economic activities with no foreign equity is allowed.
On Monday Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said liberalizing retail trade and construction sectors are being considered to be included in the 11th regular FINL, which will also be the first FINL of the Duterte administration.
Pernia mentioned that economic managers are looking into lowering the minimum paid-up capital from $2.5 million to $200,000 for foreign retail enterprises to operate in the Philippines.
“The purpose is to make the consumers happier,” he said.
Lopez also echoed consumers will have better choices if the country will open further its retail-trade sector to foreign players.
The DTI chief, likewise, said Filipino small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will be able to compete even if the government will liberalize retail trade, noting that even with the entry of foreign brands like H&M and Forever21, among many others, local retail enterprises were still able to compete.
“There’s competition. Consumers already enjoyed many products,” he added.
Moreover, the trade chief mentioned that opening up retail-trade activities to foreign players could be an opportunity for local SMEs, as they can be suppliers to these international brands.
But on the other hand, Lopez mentioned that the government should deliberate if retail trade is something to prioritize in liberalizing the economy to foreign players.
“We can deliberate on whether SME retail is something we want to have because right now the goods are already coming in,” he said.
“It is a policy question whether we want to help the SMEs of other countries or our local entrepreneurs,” the trade chief added.