BAGUIO CITY – The failure of the government to address non-tariff concerns in relation to the free trade agreement of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) coupled with the westernized business attitude of Filipinos will greatly affect the competitiveness of Philippine products in the global market, a Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) official said here.
Alfredo M. Yao, PCCI national president, said the country has no serious concerns in the tariff side of the free trade because it has already complied with the zero tariff for goods and services from ASEAN countries but the problem of local businessmen and exporters is the non-tariff side of the trade where export quality local products are being strictly subjected to stringent procedures upon reaching their points of destination.
“If some foreign countries make it difficult for our products to enter their territory, then let us also do the same to their products entering our country in order to be fair and square. The problem with Filipinos is that we are too lenient to foreigners but not to ourselves,” Yao stressed.
He disclosed numerous exporters have complained that their products take more or less three months to be released by Indonesian authorities but Indonesian products that are shipped to the country only takes a week before being released for distribution in the markets.
According to him, even his famous juice drink product encountered the same treatment where the product was about to expire but the authorities of the still undisclosed country of origin did not release the product from their customs that resulted to their company suffering from huge losses in terms of income and possible market.
“The best way to combat the expected serious negative effects of the ASEAN free trade is for Filipinos to patronize local products even with the influx of similar products from other countries. It is high time that we shy away from our westernized attitude in order to make our products competitive in the international market,” Yao added.
Yao suggested to the concerned government agencies to create a small technical working group (TWG) to study and evaluate how the country can get over the non-tariff issues of the free trade in order to prepare the appropriate safety nets and mechanisms on how the country can get over the said sensitive issues prior to the full-blown implementation of the free trade.
The PCCI official asserted the high cost of power is not a reason why local products cannot directly compete with similar products from neighboring ASEAN countries because there are some exporters of plastic that are making good in supplying foreign companies with their plastic requirements at reasonable cost when the same is being produced in the country.
He cited the robust growth of the micro, small and medium enterprises in the country will also greatly contribute in sustaining abundant supply of basic commodities that will supply the requirements of Filipinos before exporting whatever would be the excess considering that the most important part of the market is for the people to first patronize locally produced goods over and above the imported ones during the free trade implementation.
He said in terms of cost of production, ingredients and volume of products, the Philippines will always be left behind in the global market and the ultimate solution to our lagging behind is for the over 104 million Filipinos to value patronizing local products above all others which would make imported goods secondary in the choice of priorities.