Exporters ‘don’t know much’ about AEC-A A +A
By Mia A. Aznar
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
WITH the policies of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) expected to take effect by December 2015, exporters lamented the slow dissemination of information being provided to them by the government.
At the Philippine Export Competitiveness Program seminar series for exporters held yesterday, most participants admitted to have little to almost no knowledge on how the AEC is expected to impact exporters.
Even Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 7 Director Asteria Caberte, during the opening remarks, admitted they were late in responding to requests for discussions on the upcoming Asean integration. However, she believes it can never be too late to prepare local businesses for the effects of integration and hopes that any information businesses can get their hands on will result in exporters contributing a higher share of the country’s gross domestic product.
Agnes Perpetua Legaspi, assistant director of the trade information and assistant group of the DTI’s Bureau of Export Trade Promotion (BETP), said one thing businesses can benefit highly from is to do research.
As exporters cited the tough competition they are up against from other countries, Legaspi said exporters will do well to find out how their products fare around the world and if they can source materials from other places at lower costs.
She noted that not many have taken advantage of the country’s free trade agreements (FTA) with Asean, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, China and India. Provided companies comply with the rules of origin stated in the respective FTA’s, Legaspi said savings from reduced or zero tariffs greatly benefit companies. She urged companies to study the tariff books to find out if they can save in different areas of the business.
While exporters often cite the high labor and power costs as factors that keep them from being competitive with other manufacturers in neighboring countries, Legaspi said these are external factors that business owners cannot control.
She urged them to focus on what they can do by innovating on their products, finding out where their products are in demand and finding better markets and suppliers. She also urged business owners to participate in roadmap initiatives for their sector, as these have clear directions that cite strengths and weaknesses that they can apply to their own businesses.
For her part, DTI-Cebu Director Nelia Navarro asked that those with positions of authority attend the seminars and discussions that the DTI calls for and not send representatives who won’t bother to share whatever information they are given to the entire organization.
She said it is the business owners who make the crucial decisions and are responsible for transferring the information.
Local officials from national government agencies also raised the concerns about not being informed about updates that are relevant to them. National Economic Development Authority (Neda) 7 Assistant Regional Director Efren Carreon said the flow of information is “slow and centralized” and urged the BETP to design a mechanism for a quicker flow of information without having to keep following up from their counterparts in Metro Manila.
Caberte echoed Carreon’s sentiments, saying information should be provided to them as soon as it is available.
Carreon volunteered the use of the Regional Development Council’s website, saying they can allocate a special page dedicated for Asean integration. In the meantime, he said they will upload any information they currently have, including materials they gathered from the Philippine Institute for Developmental Studies.
Aside from not fully understanding the implications of the AEC, many were also unaware of a self certification system that the government working on.
The self-certification system lessens the steps companies need to make to complete the export process. Self certification is one of the things that is expected upon implementation of the AEC.
With a roomful of exporters unaware of such measures, Caberte admitted she is concerned about the lack of awareness among stakeholders. “This is good news but we didn’t hear anything about it,” she said.
Aside from the lack of information, exporters also suggested the Philippines arrange FTAs with other emerging markets like Brazil, Russia and Turkey.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 25, 2013.