MANILA – Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez commended the 12-member National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR), which he leads, for the Philippines’ seven-year exclusion from the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) counterfeiting and piracy watchlist, a positive positioning that helps ensure the country’s continued enjoyment of the US’ preferential trade program and further bilateral dialogue on a long sought free trade deal.
“The strong cooperation within the NCIPR network has made this possible,” he said in a statement Sunday.
Lopez thanked the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Customs, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police, the Optical Media Board, the National Book Development Board, the Office of the Special Envoy on Transnational Crime, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the National Telecommunications Commission for their unwavering dedication in the fight against counterfeits and piracy.
He also lauded the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), which serves as vice-chair of the NCIPR, for steering the monthly meetings to ensure harmony in the implementation of existing policies.
“They also helped in enhancing them to be firmer and more responsive to the changing needs of intellectual property (IP) rights holders,” he added.
Lopez said as chair of the NCIPR, DTI will continue promoting collaboration within the team.
“We will work closely to sustain the gains and clear the country’s name from allegations reported by the USTR, such as the country being a source of fake medicines and the Philippine government’s use of unlicensed software,” he added.
The Trade chief expressed hopes that the country’s good standing for seven straight years in the Special 301 report will reinvigorate discussions on a possible free trade agreement (FTA) with the US.
A bilateral FTA will provide not only an expanded market access for Philippine products but a more stable and predictable economic environment.
At present, trade issues between the Philippines and the US are being discussed under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, and given that the US is one of the major trading partners of the country, a more stable bilateral agreement becomes imperative.
Furthermore, the exclusion of the country from the Special 301 list boosts DTI’s confidence for the Philippines to continue exporting over 5,000 products to the US at zero tariff, a perk enjoyed under the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) which the US Congress is expected to renew before its December 2020 expiry.
The US GSP is a periodically renewed program that provides duty-free access to thousands of products from developing countries on the condition that beneficiaries comply with 15 statutory eligibility criteria important to US interests, including providing adequate and effective protection of IP rights.
The Philippines has been a beneficiary of the preferential trade program since 1989.
In 2019, the US stood as the country’s third most important export destination with shipments valued at USD11.57 billion, a 16.3-percent share to total full-year exports and a 7.7-percent climb from 2018 US shipments. (IA/IPOPHIL)