US groups criticize Philippine trade barriers

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PHILIPPINE LAWS and regulations are hampering market access for US-made products, industry groups complained in comments solicited by Washington.

 

  Documents posted online by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) showed seven organizations -- the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, US Grains Council, Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Inc., National Potato Council, American Potato Trade Alliance and the National Association of Manufacturers -- tagging the Philippines as among the countries with market access and intellectual property issues.

The comments, solicited from Aug. 19 to Oct. 22, will be included by the USTR in its 2014 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE), which will guide Washington in its negotiations and trade enforcement plans.

The Philippines’ Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008, among others, was said to be "inconsistent" with the country’s World Trade Organization commitments. Discounts given to special sectors under the law, for example, were said to have put US drug companies at a disadvantage.

The National Food Authority’s "monopoly" over the importation of grains was also criticized, with US exporters calling for its abolition and letting private traders take over the task of covering for most of the country’s requirements.

Concerns were also raised over import fees for distilled spirits and the 40% tariff on potato imports.

Sought for comment, Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo yesterday said: "We have been liberalizing and we continue to liberalize. And even if the process is slow, at least there is still progress and we’re not moving backwards."

"Some of the changes these groups are proposing will require changes in legislation which are imbued with political underpinnings," Mr. Domingo noted.

"These cannot be done overnight." 

In 2013 NTE, the USTR said corruption, lack of regulatory transparency, and a cap on foreign ownership remained key concerns for American businesses. Business World