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Trade dep’t completes safeguard measures probe into automobiles

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THE DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it concluded its investigation into potential safeguard duties on imported cars.

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said that results and recommendations from the investigation will be submitted to the secretary by this week for a final decision.

“The report on whether there is a positive finding or not on the preliminary safeguard investigation is being finalized along with — if it is positive, the applicable rates,” he said at a virtual press conference last week.

The DTI launched the investigation in February after being petitioned by the labor group Philippine Metalworkers Association (PMA), which last year flagged a possible link between a surge in automotive imports and a decline in local employment.

If Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez decides to implement duties, the DTI will publish the order and a provisional measure will take effect.

The case will then be sent to the Tariff Commission, which will have 120 days to conduct public hearings before submitting its recommendations to the Secretary.

Collected duties from the provisional measure will be placed in escrow, DTI Bureau of Import Services Director Luis M. Catibayan said at the same event.

“If, for example, the Tariff Commission recommended dismissal then… the bond will be returned to the importers,” he said.

Republic Act No. 8800, or the Safeguard Measures Act, authorizes the government to impose temporary tariffs after a determination that a domestic industry has been substantially harmed by a surge in imports.

Both car industry groups have pushed back against safeguard duties. The Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) said that the measure will hinder the car industry’s recovery from the effects of the pandemic.

The Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc. (AVID) called it a “disruptive” measure, noting that the group does not believe duties would encourage investments.

CAMPI sales fell 41.6% year-on-year in the first 11 months, while AVID sales plummeted 42.6% in the first 10 months. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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