MSMEs urged to take on opportunities and challenges of ASEAN Economic Community

"Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should be proactive in their attitude towards the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), rather than be defensive and cower in fear of competition. Playing a bigger role in the AEC will enable them to grow their business and reap the benefits of being ASEAN-engaged," said Former Director General of the National and Economic Development Authority (NEDA), and head of USAID's Trade-Related Assistance for Development (TRADE) Project, Dr. Cielito Habito during the recently held regional conference on the "Industry Roadmaps and the AEC Gameplan: Roadmaps Localization for Competitiveness" in Butuan City.

Dr. Habito joined Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Assistant Secretary Rafaelita M. Aldaba to encourage stakeholders in Region 13 to translate both the AEC Game Plan and various industry roadmaps into local actions. He spoke on the economic opportunities and potentials for local industries and sectors and how they can take advantage of opportunities under the AEC.

"International trade in the contemporary setting has become more complementary and less competitive due to cross-border value chains, thereby rendering trade protectionism irrelevant. MSMEs would do well to invest time and effort to expand their horizons and establish a stronger foothold in the regional market," explained Dr. Habito. He added that MSMEs should study and utilize government programs designed help them take advantage of trade and investment opportunities under the AEC.

According to Dr. Habito, the AEC opens up easy access to a wider market that includes the six economies of Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand apart from the ten ASEAN economies. While the domestic market has 100 million consumers, and ASEAN market has more than 600 million consumers, the ASEAN +6 market has 3.45 billion consumers, all of whom become potential customers with duty free access for Philippine exporters by virtue of the ASEAN free trade agreements with those six major economies.

Dr. Habito also stressed the significance of new emerging high-level agreements, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which would both bring more growth opportunities from an even larger market base. "The Philippines cannot afford not to be part of these agreements once it is fully operative, as we stand to lose some of our trade with major economies, and stand to forego tremendous new trade opportunities that these economies could provide our local exporters," he explained.

Meanwhile, Aldaba explained the Philippine's New Industrial Policy for More Competitive Regional Economies and stressed the need to scale-up the region's agriculture sector by aligning its dominantly thriving and potential industries with national industry roadmaps.

The industry roadmaps chart the long-term vision, strategies, and goals for key industries, identify opportunities and promote forward and backward linkages in priority areas and high-potential growth sectors. It will also guide industries in attracting investments and generating jobs. These roadmaps serve as the backbone for the Comprehensive National Industrial Strategy (CNIS) which links the manufacturing sector with the agricultural and services sector.

The forum was attended by more than 250 stakeholders from the private sector, local government units, government agencies, media and the academe.

Source: Philippine Information Agency