24 November 2015


Opening up economies would benefit everyone – APEC
When the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was established 26 years ago, its foundation was laid with the vision of a region free from protectionism.

In economics, protectionism is the complete opposite of free trade, the former being the policy of restraining trade between states through a variety of government regulations, such as tariffs and restrictive quotas, while the latter is the doctrine where governments reduce as much as possible the barriers to trade.

Today, as it has been in the two-and-a-half decades of APEC’s existence, there is a broad consensus among member economies that the impact of protectionism on economic growth and on economic welfare, in general, is largely negative.

The APEC continues to espouse free and open trade and investment among its 21 member economies, as it remains convinced that protectionism stifles opportunity and narrows the market because it crushes the energy of the marketplace that creates new solutions in the first place.

As far as the majority, if not all APEC economies, is concerned, a freer market creates more opportunity, more growth, more dynamism, and more innovation.

The spirit of countering protectionism remains high in the list of commitments of the APEC, as emphasized in the Leaders’ Statement on Supporting the Multilateral Trading System and the coming 10th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC10) in Nairobi, Kenya issued at the conclusion of the 2015 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, hosted by Manila last week.

“We reaffirm our pledges against all forms of protectionism, through our commitment to a standstill until the end of 2018, and to roll back protectionist and trade-distorting measures,” the APEC Leaders stated.

“We recognize the need to exert further efforts to comply with this commitment,” they added. “We remain committed to exercising maximum restraint in implementing measures that may be consistent with WTO provisions but have a significant protectionist effect, and to promptly rectifying such measures, where implemented.”

Basically, this commitment is the biggest variable of success for the spirit of multilateral trading system going forward in the Asia Pacific.

At the conclusion of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, the heads of member economies reaffirmed the value, centrality and primacy of this system under the auspices of the WTO, whose achievements have contributed significantly to the region’s economic dynamism and resiliency in the past 20 years.

“The Asia Pacific has been one of the fastest-growing trading regions, benefiting significantly from the stability and predictability of the multilateral trading system,” the APEC Leaders said, vowing to continue to work closely together to strengthen the rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system as embodied in the WTO.

“Within the established framework of the multilateral trading system, we commit APEC to continuing to support the effectiveness of the WTO and the further promotion of its objectives for the benefit of all,” the ey said.

In this regard, the APEC Leaders endorsed the forthcoming MC10, WTO’s top level decision-making body, to be held in Nairobi, Kenya. They also declared their commitment to work together for its success.

As on previous occasions, they pledged to provide the necessary political impetus during the Nairobi Ministerial Meeting to achieve a balanced set of outcomes and clear guidance to post-Nairobi work.

“We instruct our Ministers to engage actively and constructively in the discussions, with the objective of achieving concrete, meaningful, balanced and development-oriented outcomes,” the APEC Leaders said.

They further acknowledged that bilateral, regional and plurilateral trade agreements can play an important role in complementing global liberalization initiatives.

“We will continue to work together to ensure that they are consistent with WTO agreements and contribute to strengthening the multilateral trading system,” the APEC Leaders said. (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)

Government to continue supporting business process outsourcing sector, says President Aquino
The government will continue to become a partner of businesses in maximizing the talents of the Filipino people especially on the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, President Aquino said on Tuesday.

In a speech during the inauguration of the Pointwest Digital Center in Pasig City, he said that during the APEC Leaders’ Meeting last week, they talked about technology and its impacts on APEC economies.

For instance, in the US, the advancement in technology also displaced laborers as modern machine and robotics take over manual labor.

“This is the thinking behind our massive investments and reforms in technical education: As innovation expands the realm of opportunities, we need to be certain that our people have the skills to capitalize on those opportunities,” he said.

“Through the Training for Work Scholarship Program, for instance, of TESDA, we have done just that.”

Under the present government, the administration spent more than P1.6 billion on the program just for the IT-BPM sector, training more than 200,000 Filipinos along the way.

The government worked hand-in-hand with the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) to ensure that this money was spent efficiently, and it has resulted in more than 70 percent of the beneficiaries of the TESDA-IBPAP training program in 2012.

Graduates found relevant employment within six months after graduation compared to the 28.5 percent employment rate posted by all TESDA scholars from 2006 to 2008.

“And I am certain that, with our continued cooperation, we can improve this figure even more. Again: Go through the training, within six months find a job. Success for over 70 percent of them.”

The government also launched the Service Management Program two years ago, which is a 21-unit specialization track for students in IT and business schools, the President said.

This year, the government welcomed the first batch of graduates under the program, and as of June, there is an estimate of around 8,000 students enrolling in it across eight State Universities and Colleges in the country.

The government is also using technology to educate more people. The University of the Philippines Open University has been working with IBPAP to convert the courseware of the program to create open distance e-learning courses.

The President reported that as of September this year, 1,200 enrollees have already signed up in these courses, and half of whom are OFWs. He hopes that upon graduation, these OFWs will stay in the country and not work abroad.

The President explained however that the programs are not dole-outs but government investments in people, which it considers the country’s greatest resource.

He further explained that for the TESDA program, government invests around P7,155 per scholar. When a scholar graduates and finds a job in the sector, it is assumed that he or she makes at least P234,000 a year as an entry-level worker.

“This means that, with the maximum tax deduction, his annual income tax will be P7,900, therefore we have made money just graduating one person; that facilitates the next person in line to get the same opportunity,” he said.

In less than a year, the state recoups its investment, he said adding these graduates will be taxpayers until retirement, and will also become empowered consumers that spur local economies.

He said that through active partnership between the government and the private sector, the country would continue to reap unimaginable rewards.

“I am confident that, if we continue our productive engagement, we will not just remain globally competitive; we can also give rise to a Philippines that is seen as a global example of what it takes to enjoy success that is both sustained and inclusive; a Philippines that we can be proud to bequeath to the next generation of Filipinos,” he said. PND (as)