The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is optimistic that discussions on services domestic regulation will continue despite the indefinite postponement of the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) due to the emergence of the Covid-19 Omicron variant.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told the BusinessMirror that the Philippines will continue talks on the services domestic regulation, which he believes “will advance given support from more countries” as well.
The measure, which seeks to remove “unintended trade-restrictive effects” on the services sector, was expected to be adopted for declaration during the now-cancelled WTO meeting. It was originally scheduled on November 30 to December 3 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The WTO recently reported that the Philippines is the 66th member to participate in the said negotiation. The initiative now covers over 90 percent of the world services trade.
The Philippine delegation, WTO said, shared that the regulations being finalized will complement its Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018 and regional trade pacts.
Previously, Lopez said that the services sectors, which are major economic drivers, need further assistance to recover from the pandemic’s devastation.
“More than providing access to services markets, it is imperative that we also provide a transparent and predictable regulatory environment to help services firms engage in the international market,” he said.
In a statement over the weekend, the DTI said the WTO conference is expected to discuss key trade investment concerns to improve international trade regulations while tackling the Covid-19 situation.
The trade department noted that the meeting will allow for the conclusion of the Fisheries Subsidies negotiation and Ministerial decisions or statements on trade and public health including access to vaccines and medicines, e-commerce and investment facilitation.
Lopez said the “Philippines has been fully engaging and was looking forward to the said conference to secure its national interest amidst shared global challenges including on the pandemic.”
But he also understands and agrees with the cancellation of the conference for the safety of the participants.
The trade official said their primary agenda for the WTO meeting include those relating to making vaccines and therapeutics more inclusive, as well as the finalization of fisheries subsidies negotiation.
“Access to safe, effective affordable and high-quality diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines has been a consistent policy advocated by President Duterte, Foreign Secretary Locsin and DTI across all fora such as in the recent meetings of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and in bilateral engagements, and a concrete decision at the WTO forum on trade and health would have been a milestone in addressing this objective.”
The DTI chief said the department has been inviting investors to put up projects in manufacturing, research, development and clinical trial test of vaccines and medicines in the country.
“Research and development is a critical component of this exercise as the virus continues to evolve and mutate. In the same manner manufacturing and distribution of vaccines must be sustained as the demand continues and the need for booster shots is now imperative.”
The DTI hopes to attract more investments in the said field with the new tax reform package.