The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), with the assistance of trade policy experts from the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) Drs. Erlinda Medalla and Rafaelita Aldaba , consulted stakeholders last June 07, 2012, at the NEDA sa Makati Office, on the extent of benefits and costs to the Philippines of its participation in free trade agreements (FTA).

Participants of the focus group discussion (FGD) consisted of government representatives from DTI, Department of Agriculture, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Philippine Regulation Commission (PRC), private sector, chambers of commerce, industry associations, academe and civil society organizations. The experts explained during the meeting that they were requested by DTI to come up with a study that will assess and analyze to what extent the Philippines benefited from its current FTAs and what were the attendant costs of these FTAs. They were also tasked to identify factors that impede or facilitate the realization of benefits (if any).

The main purpose of the FGD therefore was to discuss the awareness of the participants of the various FTAs that the country is a Party into, whether they are utilizing these FTAs and what are their recommendations on the type of measures, policy directions and legislations that could maximize the benefits of the FTAs and minimize the costs attendant to their implementation.

Participants were asked to identify the obstacles and constraints that prevent them or the country from taking full advantage of the various FTAs. Among the things mentioned include: lack of infrastructure support, high cost of doing business specifically power cost, value-chain fragmentations among industries, absence of industry roadmaps and a national industrial policy and lack of awareness of FTAs, among others.

In the same light, participants were also requested to provide their recommendations on how the country can take advantage of the opportunities presented by the various FTAs. Among the recommendations include: lowering the cost doing business specifically power costs, higher agriculture investments, giving more opportunities for industries to move up the global value chain, and providing the necessary infrastructure support so that goods and services can flow seamlessly from one destination to the other. Participants also brought up the need to be consulted not just after an FTA is signed but for them to be involved in the whole process. There were also recommendations on pass a National Industrialization Plan consisting of the overall longā€term industry development program matched with an ideal competition and trade policy frameworks supporting sectoral competitiveness.

The output of the FGD will be used in the study that will be published by PIDS this year.

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