Trade panel to streamline Customs processes to aid small businesses

The newly established committee for trade facilitation is expected to help micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to be more active in international trade and widen their access to international goods and services, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said.

During its first meeting Wednesday, Mr. Dominguez said the Philippine Trade Facilitation Committee (PTFC), which he chairs, aims to make Customs processes more efficient to benefit the small firms in their pursuit of international business.

“Our work is especially critical for the MSMEs that often do not have the financial capacity to overcome the inefficiencies of the trading system and lack access to the global markets. What we aim to accomplish here will allow them to actively participate in international trade and broaden their access to the global value chains,” he said in a speech.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued Executive Order No. 136 on May 18, creating the PTFC to streamline customs processes and help the Philippines comply with commitments under the World Trade Organization-Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO-TFA).

WTO-TFA, established in February 2017, requires member countries to have a national committee on trade facilitation or assign an existing system that will implement the TFA.

The agreement aims to fast-track movement of goods and encourages customs authorities to collaborate with other agencies on trade facilitation. The WTO estimates that fully implementing the TFA can bring down trade costs by 14.3% on average and boost international trade by $1 trillion yearly.

Mr. Dominguez said streamlined procedures in customs and trade can spur job creation, attract investment, help upgrade the skills of workers and spur entrepreneurship. Eventually, this will help the economy grow faster and sustainably over the long term, he added.

He said modernizing operations at the Bureau of Customs will also cut trade costs, pave the way for more transparency, boost government revenue, reduce corruption and improve the digital economy.

“A streamlined, transparent, and efficient customs administration will result in a more conducive trading environment for all our businesses. This is expected to increase our trade volumes and reduce costs for consumers and producers,” he said. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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