Constitution, trade, and buy filipino

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:

"This reading of the Constitution was confirmed by the final arbiter of how the Constitution should be understood: the Supreme Court. Thus, in TaƱada vs. Angara (GR No. 118295, 2 May 1997) the SC declared that 'economic nationalism should be read with other constitutional mandates to attain balanced development of economy,' that the 'Constitution does not rule out foreign competition,' and (most significantly) that the 'Constitution favors consumers [and that the] Constitution has not really shown any unbalanced bias in favor of any business or enterprise, nor does it contain any specific pronouncement that Filipino companies should be pampered with a total proscription of foreign competition.'

Accordingly, rather than confining itself by siding with a narrow protectionist perspective, our Constitution wisely took an even-handed, pragmatic approach that seeks competitiveness for those companies of ours willing to be competitive, promotes the general welfare, and provides our citizens that one important fundamental right inherent in a democratic and republican State: the right to choose.

Which now provides you the context with which to view the utility of relying on a 'Buy Filipino' movement: yes it’s legal if it’s a private-sector-driven program; whether it’s effective is another matter. According to trade remedy petitions data, the local ceramics industry has around 50% local market share, float glass around 85%, and with soap raw materials (such as STPP) having around 90% local market share. A political party’s declaration that since 'government is the single biggest spender [then if] all national and local agencies can consciously support the campaign by giving preference to locally produced goods and services, then this would be a good start' ignores the fact that our government procurement of local products (which is legal under the WTO) is already being done since the time of President Quezon through our Flag Law. Unless a complete monopoly is what is being sought, what all this means is that a Buy Filipino movement isn’t going to be that helpful as we’re already doing it."