Trade Chief bats for people-centered and inclusive growth in the ASEAN region

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Trade Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met with the United States Representative (USTR), Ambassador Katherine Tai, via video conference last September 14, 2021, for the AEM-USTR Consultations.  

At the said engagement, ASEAN and US economic officials discussed current efforts undertaken to address the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed commitment to further accelerate recovery by ensuring that markets remain open for trade and investment, among others.  

On trade and investment policies, the Philippines believes that they must be people centered and should always promote inclusive growth. We have always adhered to this policy, and we will remain a strong mover of an open, free, fair, transparent, inclusive, rules based and non-discriminatory  trading system,” said Secretary Ramon Lopez.  

The meeting endorsed the 2021-2022 ASEAN-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA) Work Plan that will include implementation of initiatives on digital trade and sustainable development, as well as further dialogue on safeguarding worker’s rights and the inclusion of environmental provisions in trade agreements. 

According to Secretary Lopez, the  U.S. is an important and strategic trading partner to ASEAN, and the [ASEAN-U.S.] TIFA has served as a key mechanism to reinforce economic relations and expand trade and investment opportunities in the  post-pandemic recovery efforts. 

The Philippines views the rise of e-commerce and digital economy as catalysts for post-pandemic recovery. Thus, it is important that rules and disciplines be entrenched in this area to ensure a predictable way of doing business online while protecting  the rights of consumers.” Lopez added.  

Ministers also engaged with the US-ASEAN Business Advisory Council (US-ABC) where both sides underscored the importance of the private sector in coming up with concrete initiatives to facilitate economic recovery.  

The US-ABC discussed their Recommendation Paper titled, “Re-building ASEAN’s Economy in Post-Pandemic Era” which identifies timely initiatives where the private and public sector can work together to support ASEAN in implementing relevant initiatives, such as the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), Ha Noi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the ASEAN Agreement on Electronic Commerce.  

The US-ABC also lauded the support and assistance provided by the DTI led by Secretary Lopez on the launching of the ASEAN SME Academy, a US-funded online training tool and information portal to develop globally competitive MSMEs. 

We appreciate the proposed initiatives of the USABC, particularly in advancing the region’s digital transformation agenda. Digital trade is indeed a key area that ASEAN should look into to ensure synergies between the private and the public sector, and to fast-track recovery of affected businesses and MSMEs. We will ensure the proposals are considered by the relevant sectoral bodies,” Secretary Lopez noted.  

The AEM-USTR Consultations was convened at the sidelines of the 53rd AEM Meeting, which was held in view of the 38th ASEAN Leaders’ Summit and Related Summits to be held on October 26-28, 2021. 

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