Covid drugs, gear shielded from trade curbs
THE Philippines has reached an agreement with its Southeast Asian neighbors to refrain from imposing trade measures against a total of 152 drugs and health equipment crucial in the fight against Covid-19.
At the Asean Economic Community Council Meeting last week, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez signed the memorandum of understanding ( MOU) on the implementation of nontariff measures ( NTMS) on essential Covid-19 goods.
The MOU is a product of negotiations conducted by Asean economic ministers in August, focusing on how they can put in place a focused and targeted work program to address NTMS, particularly on essential goods.
In general, the memorandum seeks to ensure the smooth flow of critical goods associated with fighting the contagion across Southeast Asia. It also aims to facilitate information sharing among Asean economies on trade-related measures, particularly NTMS.
Most important, the MOU asks Asean states to refrain from introducing or maintaining trade- restrictive measures on essential goods, except for instances wherein there is a public health emergency.
Under the MOU, Asean members that will implement an NTM should conform with the rights and obligations spelled out in World Trade Organization rules. NTMS should also comply with the provisions of the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement.
The MOU covers the whole list of Asean’s essential goods in the fight against Covid-19, which includes 152 tariff lines of medicines, medical supplies and health equipment.
“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,” Lopez said in a statement on Thursday.
According to Lopez, the MOU is a step forward as well to removing the export bans applied by Southeast Asian nations at the onset of the pandemic to divert all of their critical supplies for domestic use.
Further, Asean ministers will be studying the coverage of the MOU and look into the possible expansion of the list to include other essential items, such as food and agricultural products.