BORACAY, AKLAN— Preparations for the forthcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting (SRMM) in September will be high on the agenda when the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) Economic Committee meeting today at the Shangri-La Hotel on this island. Policy discussions on inclusiveness, the role of services in structural reform, and structural policies and innovation are also expected to take up the morning session of the one-day EC meeting.

“With the gradual reduction in tariffs and other at-the-border barriers in the Asia-Pacific region, behind-the border barriers, or structural policy impediments, have become the more important obstacle to economic integration,” said NEDA Deputy Director-General Emmanuel F. Esguerra, who also serves as the leader of the Philippine delegation to the APEC Second Senior Officials’ Meeting.

“These barriers may come in the form of poor infrastructure, unclear property rights, complex licensing procedures, weak enforcement of contracts, excessive regulation of some industries, or an inadequate legal framework for competition,” he added.

Structural reform seeks to reduce such behind-the-border barriers in order to allow firms to enter previously-protected markets, reduce the cost of doing business, and give them the opportunity to invest more. This will allow even small and medium enterprises to expand their markets and eventually reduce prices of goods and services for consumers.

“Structural policies that promote efficient resource allocation and greater competition help to improve productivity, and ultimately raise living standards and contribute to sustainable growth,” said Esguerra.

“Structural reform will open new opportunities for the private sector, especially for the small and medium enterprises, to take advantage of the gains that the economic integration can provide for local and international businesses,” the NEDA official said.

At the SRMM scheduled in September, economic ministers from the 21 APEC economies will review the progress in the implementation of the APEC New Strategy for Structural Reform (ANSSR). ANSSR was endorsed by the APEC Leaders in 2010 to promote balanced and sustainable growth through advancing transparency, competition, better functioning markets; enhancing opportunities for women, and supporting more education and SME development in the Asia-Pacific.

This will only be the second time since 2008 when a ministerial meeting on structural reform will be held, at which time agreement is expected on a post-2015 APEC structural reform agenda.

The EC will also meet with the private sector on May 17, 2015 to gather their inputs on the themes to be discussed during the SRMM, which will be held in Cebu City.