> Press release: Growth prospects are linked to continued trade liberalization reforms
The third Trade Policy Review of the Philippines has been informative and open, thus contributing to a better understanding of recent developments in the Philippines' trade and related policies and the domestic circumstances in which these policies are formulated and implemented. The preparation of the Country Report has provided an opportunity for domestic discussion and reflection and, together with the excellent Secretariat Report, has contributed to transparency and enabled Members to assess the trade policies and practices of the Philippines. Our discussion has greatly benefited from the active engagement of the Philippines' delegation as well as from our discussant's insightful comments and many thoughtful interventions by Members.
Members were encouraged by the recovery of the Philippines' economy after the Asian financial crisis. Members welcomed the Government's reform efforts, particularly concerning trade liberalization, fiscal consolidation and privatization. Members encouraged the Philippines to continue its reform process and improve access to its markets.
Members welcomed the Philippines' commitment to the multilateral trading system, including its strong support for the Doha Development Agenda. In this context, Members welcomed the Philippines' recent tabling of its initial services offer.
Members expressed their appreciation of steps taken by the Philippines to liberalize further its trade regime. While noting that its average applied tariff rate is relatively low among developing countries, Members were concerned about the predictability of applied tariffs, referring in particular to the increase in the average applied tariff rate in 2004. With a view to increasing predictability, Members urged the Philippines to narrow the gap between applied and bound MFN tariff rates and to bind more tariff lines. Members also encouraged the Philippines to simplify its non-tariff measures. While welcoming the Philippines' efforts to increase the transparency of its government procurement regime, Members were concerned about the existence of a strong preference for domestic goods and services. Some Members encouraged the Philippines to participate in the Government Procurement Agreement. Steps to strengthen intellectual property rules were welcomed; Members encouraged the Philippines to strengthen enforcement of such rules. Members commended the Philippines' ongoing efforts to align its national standards with international ones, and encouraged its continued efforts in this regard. In addition, while expressing their appreciation of recent steps by the Philippines to reduce barriers to inward foreign direct investment (FDI), Members were interested in the Government's plans to liberalize further the FDI regime. Members sought clarification on a range of issues including customs procedures, subsidies, safeguard measures, and trade and environment.
On sectoral issues, Members noted the growing importance of the manufacturing and services sector in the Philippines' economy. Members expressed their appreciation of reforms in the services sector, in particular, in financial services and transport. Many Members urged the Philippines to ratify the Fourth and Fifth protocols of the GATS. Some Members noted the growing importance of overseas remittances in the Philippines economy, and in this context, of Mode 4 liberalization.
Members expressed their appreciation of the oral and written responses to their questions provided by the Philippines delegation, and looked forward to receiving outstanding answers to questions.