CEBU CITY—Discussions on services led by the Philippines at the margins of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Third Senior Officials’ Meeting continue to draw interest among APEC economies and have been further shaping the services agenda for the Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting (SRMM) to be held on September 7 to 8 in Cebu City, according to an official of the National Economic and Development Authority, and convenor for the APEC Group on Services (GOS).

“This year’s hosting gives prominence to services given the sector’s potential and large share in the growth of the region. Currently, it accounts for 66 percent of the combined GDP of APEC economies,” said Deputy Director-General Emmanuel F. Esguerra, head of the Philippine delegation to the third Senior Officials’ Meeting.

Services–which cover activities such as telecommunications, e-commerce, transportation, finance and banking, engineering, construction, legal, healthcare and education services–are seen as a major contributor to productivity growth. The sector’s job-generation potential is also deemed important.

“The services sector is particularly important for the Philippines because it is where we have a comparative advantage. In 2014, services accounted for 56.7 percent of our country’s GDP and 53.6 percent to total employment,” he added.

The APEC Services Cooperation Framework (ASCF), proposed by the Philippines, also continues to receive support from economies. The document was introduced at the first meeting of the APEC Group on Services (GOS) and then to various APEC groups during the First Senior Officials Meeting (SOM1) in January this year in Clark Economic Zone, Pampanga. The ASCF received wide support at the level of the Senior Officials.

“The interest in the framework is very high and we are working hard to ensure that the support and enthusiasm of economies and other stakeholders will continue and pave the way for its adoption. Definitely, this will provide a more focused and coherent approach to how APEC undertakes its work on services,” said Esguerra.

Openness to collaboration between APEC economies and the private sector is also highlighted as an important feature of the ASCF.

Along this line, Public-Private Dialogues on Services were conducted at the margins of the First (SOM1) and Second (SOM2) Senior Officials’ Meetings, where the private sector showed great interest and provided substantial inputs to APEC’s work on services.

Given the cross-cutting nature of services, various working groups, sub-committees and committees have likewise included it in their agenda. The talks cover issues concerning services regulations in different markets such as electricity, finance, telecommunications, and others. Discussions and workshops on the inclusion of services and SMEs in global value chains (GVCs) are also being conducted at the margins of the Third Senior Officials’ meeting (SOM3).

“This shows us how important services is for APEC economies and that further work at the structural level needs to be done to ensure the achievement of our regional economic integration (REI) agenda and the Bogor goals,” said Esguerra.

Moreover, current dialogues highlight several areas for reform and collaboration that will facilitate deeper integration of services into the regional economy.

“Having a development agenda for the services sector and facilitating regulatory cooperation in areas concerning trade in services will be discussed at the SRMM to enable easier knowledge and technology-transfer across industries and economies,” said Esguerra.

The inputs gathered from the workshops, dialogues, and meetings, will also contribute to the structural reform discussions.