Asean signs accord to facilitate essential goods trade in region

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has signed an accord to facilitate the regional trade of essential products necessary to sustain the region’s efforts to contain the coronavirus disease 2019.

In a statement Thursday, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said Asean economic ministers signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the implementation of non-tariff measures (NTM) on essential goods at the sidelines of the 19th Asean Economic Community Council Meeting last November 10.

Under the MOU, Asean member-states were urged to refrain from “introducing or maintaining trade restrictive measures on essential goods” necessary to contain the  Covid-19 pandemic. It covers 152 tariff lines for medicines, as well as medical supplies and equipment under the Asean list of essential goods.

“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,” Lopez said.

Asean is also considering to expand the list of essential goods to include food and agricultural products.

When the Covid-19 started spreading in the region, some Asean member-states enforced export bans and other restricted measures for essential products and agricultural goods.

However, the Philippines is still one of the countries in the region that did not implement trade bans, and the DTI even encouraged manufacturing firms to repurpose their facilities to produce essential goods like personal protective equipment, including face masks and coveralls, among others.

“We also see this as a positive development that will help the Philippine business community in trading with the region,” Lopez added.

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