Gov’t told to engage firms in services trade talks

 Gov’t told to engage firms in services trade talks

THE GOVERNMENT needs to consult local businesses to give it a defined set of commercial “offensive” interests before negotiating with partner countries on trade in services, the country’s main socioeconomic think tank said.

“The government should engage with domestic stakeholders to negotiate effectively, identify the interests, competitive strengths, and weaknesses of domestic suppliers more accurately, and direct policy attention to the need for more supply capacity,” the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said in a report released in December.

The report “A Review of Philippine Participation in Trade in Services Agreements” said a country’s request list during trade negotiations presents sectors that it wants other countries to cut regulations on in order to improve export access.

“While industry players may be fully aware of their defensive interests, often, they do not have a clear idea of the offensive interests or the concessions they would like to obtain from the nation’s trading partners,” it said.

Trade liberalization for services goods involves reducing regulations that limit businesses’ market access.

Trade in services includes business, communications, construction, education, healthcare, tourism, and transport.

“In the conduct of services negotiations, the government must be proactive to gain opportunities from trade agreements,” the study said.

“It includes presenting request lists (an act of rule-making) during services negotiations to promote export interests of services where the country has comparative advantages.”

PIDS said that an organization, like the Philippine Services Coalition, could help make sure that the industry is involved in negotiation in services trade.

Services exporters face challenges in market development because of low brand recognition, lowering credibility with international suppliers.

They also lack access to export financing and do not have an established presence in foreign markets.

They also do not have reliable access to cheap infrastructure, the report added. — Jenina P. Ibañez