Retail liberalization to increase outlets for SME goods — Lopez

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A LIBERALIZATION in the retail industry promises to expand the number of outlets selling goods made by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), thereby broadening economic growth, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Board of Investment’s 50th anniversary celebration on Monday, Mr. Lopez said that an easing in the minimum capitalization requirement for foreign retailers to $200,000 from $2.5 million means more opportunities for SMEs to find a retailer willing to carry their goods.

Mr. Lopez said that the government is pushing for more liberalization “to create jobs, to create more outlets where SMEs can also send their products if you liberalize some of these industries.”

“I’m okay with the liberalization of the retail so long as there’s the floor [requirement]. I think that’s okay because I think that more retail stores [may mean] more markets for SME products so if these [companies] will be sourcing from local producers they will tap SMEs.” Mr. Lopez said.

Amid fears of exposing SMEs to competition with foreign brands, Mr. Lopez said that competition has always been around. He added that liberalization will take time and does not appear to be a priority for legislators.

The plan to lower the floor investment for foreign retailers is intended to bring the Philippines level with other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. At present, the Philippines has high entry barriers for doing business.

The government is planning to ease restrictions on foreign ownership by overhauling the Foreign Investment Negative List. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato