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6 December 2017 – ABAC (APEC Business Advisory Council) Philippines renewed its commitment towards achieving inclusive growth in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in the Philippines.

This move came as ABAC, in their annual Report to Leaders, called on APEC Leaders to further liberalize trade in goods and services as well as investment flows. Business representatives in the region recommended to their government leaders to tackle structural reforms and non-tariff barriers, encourage cross-border investment and to make the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific a reality.

In a statement released at the conclusion of the fourth ABAC meeting in Da Nang, Viet Nam last November, ABAC 2017 Chair Mr. Hoang Van Dung further stressed, “Across the region, we need solid digital infrastructure, skills that empower our workforce for the jobs of the future, and a regulatory environment that enables the movement of data and information across borders while also safeguarding privacy and security appropriately.”

Meanwhile, APEC Leaders, in their Da Nang Declaration, committed to take bolder and sustained collective actions to promote sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth, deepen regional economic integration, realize the full potential of the business sector, particularly the MSMEs, and enhance food security and sustainable agriculture.

Moving forward with ABAC’s recommendations and APEC’s priorities, the Philippine team, with guidance from Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez has identified four areas of focus going to 2018. ABAC Philippines will work with concerned government agencies and other stakeholders to implement work streams on: (1) addressing non-tariff barriers, (2) facilitating the mobility of skilled workers and promoting quality workforces, (3) enhancing MSME global presence with emphasis on digital economy and e-commerce, and (4) expanding financing availability and accessibility for MSMEs.

“These four themes will be the common priorities of both APEC and ABAC Philippines as we believe that unlocking the potential of our MSMEs and our people – creating equal opportunities and strengthening their capacities – is key to achieving inclusive, sustained and quality growth in the Philippines,” said ABAC Philippines chair Tomas Alcantara.

APEC Philippines, through the Department of Trade and Industry, is continuing its work on developing a cross-border business-to-business (B2B) digital platform that will showcase products, sellers and service providers in the region. Called the APEC MSME Marketplace, the online portal was formally launched during the SME Ministerial Meeting last September in Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam. According to Secretary Ramon Lopez, “DTI is full steam ahead in improving the functionalities of the APEC MSME Marketplace, as well as the development and capacity-building programs for Philippine MSMEs as we aim to mainstream them into the global economy.”

Prior to the ASEAN Summit in Manila, ABAC Philippines attended the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting and related meetings, particularly the fourth ABAC meeting, the annual APEC CEO Summit, and ABAC Dialogue with APEC Leaders, held this November in Da Nang, Viet Nam. The week-long event is the culmination of the discussions and presentations of the various APEC and ABAC programs and initiatives carried out for the year under Viet Nam’s leadership.♦

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