The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) stressed the need for a transparent and predictable regulatory environment for the services sectors, citing the current work of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in crafting services domestic regulations.

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said in an event on Tuesday that the services sectors, which are major economic drivers, need further assistance to recover amid the pandemic.

“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 explained.

As such, he said “it may be worth considering the work the WTO undertook to establish disciplines on services domestic regulations under the WTO Joint Statement Initiative discussions.”

The WTO concluded last month the text-based discussions on services domestic regulations, which seek to make procedures for trade in services “clear, predictable and transparent,” while ensuring free flow of trade.

The guidelines are set to be finalized by November. The negotiations were launched in December 2017 in Buenos Aires.

“Although considered as a plurilateral arrangement, it is encouraging to see that a group of like-minded members are ready to commit to a shared goal of mitigating the unintended trade restrictive effects of regulatory measures in their economies,” Lopez said.

He explained that promoting good governance for the services sectors is key to developing more trade opportunities, especially for the micro, small and medium enterprises “who are burdened by uncertain and costly requirements and procedures.”

In 2015, Lopez said the Philippines took the lead in developing services agenda for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to boost the competitiveness of the industry. He noted that a roadmap was eventually finalized, setting targets for 2025 that allow economic growth and inclusion.

While progress has been made, the DTI chief said that the midterm review of the roadmap revealed “uneven” development across the region. “There appeared to be wide differences in access to the services markets which were further exacerbated by the pandemic,” he said.

This evaluation, Lopez said, can help the APEC improve the services sector roadmap moving forward.

“I believe there is no better time than now, when economies are reopening, businesses are reorganizing, and people are adapting, that we should set a clear direction for our services sectors in a post-pandemic world,” Lopez said. The services sector accounted for 65 percent of the global GDP in 2019. The APEC region’s services exports for the same period reached $2.4 trillion, which is more than a third of the worldwide total.– 





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