As one of the core principles in global trade, transparency remains a key driver in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) process to promote economic stability in the region and in achieving APEC's trade and investment goals.
In line with this, APEC members continue to pursue projects in furthering this principle in different areas. Among this was the project spearheaded by the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry-Bureau of Philippine Standards’ (DTI-BPS) “Improving Transparency of Pre-packaged Food Packaging and Labelling Laws, Regulations and Best Practices: Conference and Compendium (SCSC 7 2019T).”
The project aimed to build APEC capacity on product packaging and labelling and increase awareness and understanding of the participants on the latest laws, regulations, standardization activities, and best practices pertaining to packaging. It was implemented by conducting a survey and culminated through a successful two-day Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference on Pre-packaged Food Packaging and Labelling hosted by the DTI-BPS in Makati, Philippines on 17-18 November 2021.
The project was participated by 16 APEC Members, namely, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong China, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Russian Federation, United States and Viet Nam and other organizations such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), International Trade Centre (ITC) and World Packaging Organization (WPO). The APEC Policy Support Unit (PSU) also extended its support to the project as resource speaker.
Through the APEC Conference entitled “Improving Transparency of Pre-Packaged Food Packaging and Labelling Laws, Regulations and Best Practices: Conference and Compendium”, the DTI-BPS was able to facilitate information exchange on food packaging and labeling requirements to enable businesses from all APEC economies in recognizing the diverse requirements on pre-packaged food packaging and labelling that significantly hinder Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) from entering the global market.
As a result of these activities, a compendium has been recently published by APEC that will serve as stakeholders’ reference to the latest packaging and labelling laws and requirements across the APEC region. It may also serve as a reference to future work that the APEC or other non-APEC fora will conduct.
The survey and conference led to the following recommendations for APEC to further the pursuit of globalizing MSMEs:
- APEC must continue to serve as a forum to exchange information on requirements of sectors of mutual interest to capacitate member economies’ relevant sectors including MSMEs and to ensure that information remains relevant;
- APEC should continue to provide an interactive forum to promote the results of the survey through the APEC website;
- APEC member economies can explore to translate the information gathered into more effective information material, such as infomercials and handbooks for wider reach;
- APEC member economies are encouraged to harmonize technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures, and base them on international standards as stipulated in the WTO-Technical Barrier to Trade (TBT) Agreement;
- APEC to create and maintain a directory of regulatory agencies where private sectors or economies can direct questions and get correct information regarding their concerns;
- APEC to assist in the promotion of the discussion of the use of technologies in food labelling and use of eco-labels/sustainable packaging and technical infrastructure to support these developments;
- APEC to continue to promote the importance of stakeholders’ participation in the international standardization process to ensure concerns are considered during the development of international standards; and
- Cross-fora collaboration within APEC, and other relevant international organizations such as WTO, ITC, CAC, etc. is encouraged.
A copy of the full compendium as well as the highlights of each session of the 2021 APEC Conference may be viewed at https://www.apec.org/publications/2022/04/improving-transparency-of-pre-packaged-food-packaging-and-labelling-laws-regulations-and-best-practices-conference-and-compendium.