The Philippines signed a memorandum of agreement with ASEAN member states to implement the non-tariff measures on essential goods covering 152 tariff lines of medicines, medical supplies and equipment.
But ASEAN is aiming to expand the coverage to include other essential goods including food and agricultural products.
The implementation of non-tariff measures supports cooperation and supply chain connectivity across ASEAN, a set of measures ensuring a streamlined flow of goods during the Covid-19 era.
The agreement would ease stringent trade policies other ASEAN members have implemented during the pandemic that caused supply shortages on medicines and medical supplies in the region.
“This action is a clear manifestation of ASEAN’s shared commitment in keeping markets open, ensure the unhampered flow of essential goods, and show economic resiliency amid COVID-19. We also see this as a positive development that will help the Philippine business community in trading with the region,” said Ramon Lopez, a Philippines Trade Secretary.
This initiative stemmed from a decision made by ASEAN economic ministers last August to put in place a more focused and targeted work program to address non-tariff measures, particularly on essential goods.
The agreement is part of ASEAN’s concrete initiatives in response to COVID-19 to ensure the smooth flow of essential goods associated with combating the pandemic. It also seeks to facilitate timely information sharing among member states on trade-related measures on these essential goods and supplies.
It further calls on the ASEAN countries to refrain from introducing or maintaining trade restrictive measures on essential goods, except for instances wherein there is a public health emergency. Any measure a member country deems necessary to implement must be in conformity with ASEAN rights and obligations under the World Trade Organization agreement and the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement.
The agreement forms part of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework, which serves as the consolidated exit strategy of the region from the Covid-19 crisis. It articulates the ASEAN response through different stages of recovery. It focuses on key sectors and segments of society that are most affected by the pandemic, as well as sets broad strategies and identifies measures for recovery in line with sectoral and regional priorities.