ASEAN, Japan trade ministers adopt Action Plan for Economic Resilience

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DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez addresses the 7th Regional Competitiveness Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center Plenary Hall,

By Alithea De Jesus

In the recently concluded ASEAN-Japan Trade Ministers Special Meeting on the ASEAN-Japan Economic Resilience Action Plan held on July 29, 2020, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez highlighted the need to build confidence and revitalize businesses, as well as the need to sustain economic activities as key policy considerations in the agreement.

“As key trading partners with heavily linked supply chains and economies, partnership in areas of mutual interest will help stakeholders, especially MSMEs and other vulnerable groups, survive and continue operations under the ‘new normal.’ This will also ensure that they become more resilient should similar challenges occur in the future,” Sec. Lopez said.

Sec. Lopez represented the Philippines as the trade ministers of ASEAN Member States and Japan adopted the ASEAN-Japan Economic Resilience Action Plan in a special video conference held on July 29, 2020, in recognition of the need to have a coherent and synchronized efforts to ensure economic resilience in the region.

Comprised of 52 strategic measures, the ASEAN-Japan Action Plan identified concrete actions to achieve three broad objectives: (i) sustain the close economic ties developed by ASEAN and Japan; (ii) mitigate the adverse impact of COVID- 19 on the economy; and (iii) strengthen economic resilience.

Underlining the need for greater support for MSMEs, Sec. Lopez said: “We want to sustain the spirit of entrepreneurship in the midst of the pandemic as well as under the post-pandemic scenario.”

As the economy becomes more digital and economic activities rely heavily on computers and electronics, the trade chief noted that the Philippines would like to see more investments in these sectors, including research and product development.

In addition to supporting to MSMEs, Sec. Lopez also stressed that there is a need to equip the workforce with appropriate skills to navigate the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as that of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The ASEAN-Japan Action Plan is expected to support the objectives set out in the ASEAN Ha Noi Plan of Action, which the ASEAN Economic Ministers adopted on June 04, 2020 in combating the COVID pandemic, both on the health and economic fronts.

ASEAN and Japan combined are considered as one the largest trade block in the region. In 2019, two-way trade between ASEAN and Japan reached USD 225.9 billion, accounting for 8 percent of ASEAN’s total trade. Meanwhile, total FDI inflows from Japan amounted to USD 20.4 billion, accounting for 12.7 percent of total FDI inflows to ASEAN. This places Japan as ASEAN’s fourth-largest trading partner and second-largest external source of FDI among ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners in 2019.