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No pressing need for DTI reforms, says incoming chief

Mercurio, Richmond (2016, June 20). The Philippine Star. No pressing need for DTI reforms, says incoming chief. Retrieved from http://www.philstar.com/business/2016/06/20/1594535/no-pressing-need-dti-reforms-says-incoming-chief

MANILA, Philippines – Change is coming with the Duterte administration but that may not be necessary to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said incoming secretary Ramon Lopez who sees no need to initiate drastic reforms in the agency.

“It’s not complicated because DTI as we all know is doing a lot of good things so definitely all the good programs will have to continue and even be enhanced. Of course there will be a continuing review of programs that will probably be prioritized and less prioritized,” Lopez said in an interview.

“In terms of the officials, I gave my commitment for continuity. I’m willing to retain the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries, The question is if they also want to. But for me, I’m open but I have to also review their performance,” he added.

Lopez said he met with outgoing Trade Secretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. last week to discuss and facilitate the transition at the agency.

ccording to Lopez, incoming president Rodrigo Duterte has only two primary mandates for him as head of the country’s trade and investment promotions agency – uplift the quality of life of Filipinos through entrepreneurship and no corruption.

“At the focus of the incoming president is uplifting the poor, the quality of life through entrepreneurship, through business. To support the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through interventions and to build a climate that is conducive to business,” he said.

“So the priorities will be programs that will help MSMEs like enabling training and accelerate further Negosyo Centers and shared-service facilities,” Lopez said.

In terms of the country’s international trade negotiations, the incoming DTI chief has likewise aired his full support at pursuing them.

“No change because I am all for fair trade and liberalization. Calibrated liberalization is the way to go, we cannot backtrack. We are part of the global system and if we backtrack, we will be out of that global system,” Lopez said.

“What we are going to do is work on how we can maximize these free trade agreements (FTA) so that it can benefit not only the existing (exporters), but even those who are not yet exporting. That not only the big firms will benefit but even the small ones,” he added.

The Philippines has started last month initial round of negotiations for an FTA with the 28-member European Union (EU).

The negotiations will aim to conclude a deal that covers a broad range of issues such as elimination of customs duties and other barriers to trade, services and investment, access to public procurement markets, and additional disciplines in the area of competition and protection of intellectual property rights.

In addition, the Philippines is hoping to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-country economic bloc which currently accounts for more than a quarter of world trade.

“I think Mr. Lopez’ experience on the ground with MSMEs will really be a big boost to what DTI does, from ease of doing business all the way to international trade. His experience in capacity building of MSMEs is really the starting point. We have to simplify rules for businesses to benefit MSMEs, they have to be front and center. We negotiate trade agreements so they can import and export,” Cristobal said.

Prior to his appointment, Lopez has been the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship-Go Negosyo’s executive director for the past 11 years and has served the business sector for 22 years.