President Duterte’s Vision of Meaningful Globalization


Photo courtesy of APEC 2017 Vietnam National Secretariat


13 November 2017 DA NANG, VIETNAM - President Rodrigo Roa Duterte fired the opening salvo of his participation in APEC 2017 by making a strong pitch for an inclusive economic and business agenda.  For President Duterte, the 21st century global economic agenda should help those who have been left behind by globalization. He observed that, while APEC’s role as a driver for innovation and growth is unquestioned, all its advocacy of free and open trade could come across as insensitive and even unacceptable to those who watch from the sidelines because they are unable to get a foot up the trading ladder.


Photo courtesy of APEC 2017 Vietnam National Secretariat

Globalization is looked upon with suspicion by those who perceive it to have failed them.  If we are to stop fighting about this, we will need a new paradigm for discourse in APEC, one which catapults APEC’s inclusive agenda to the front row. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

His message to fellow leaders and businessmen was for economies to institute more equitable terms in all facets of relations, like tariffs, terms and benefits of trade, especially addressing barriers to free and open trade. President Duterte said that the essence of true cooperation is “being able to foster a regional climate that promotes mutual respect and equal opportunities”.  He said, “It is not charity that less developed economies and small businesses need but greater market access and the opportunity to participate in trade”.

For President Duterte, this balance in economic relationships can help developing economies scale up the value chain, ultimately helping to achieve quality growth, by benefiting not only the entire economy by unleashing the full potential of different sectors but individuals as they achieve full employment.


Photo courtesy of APEC 2017 Vietnam National Secretariat

To big business, he urged the pursuit of inclusive business models not only to create wealth but also to distribute it. He spoke to a packed hall of CEOs on 09 November 2017 to pitch inclusive growth, urging big business to address the pessimism and suspicion felt by those who do not benefit from free trade and globalization. President Duterte directly called on CEOs to include MSMEs in their retail operations and in their sourcing decisions in order to enable MSMEs to enter the global value chain.

The 25th APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in Vietnam in 2017 adopted a Leaders’ Declaration that was of special significance to the Philippines in the focus given to micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises. This was a sector the Philippines advocated through several Chairmanships, especially in 2015 when it chaired APEC. The 2017 Declaration recognized the need to empower MSMEs by increasing their capacities to innovate, improving their access to digital infrastructure, enhancing their digital capacities, competitiveness and resilience, and creating a business environment and ecosystem that supports start-ups.

Developments of the 21st century have changed the way we do business, and have opened up new opportunities for growth, for instance, in expanding markets and opening up consumers to innovations…The factors of market, technology and human capital are converging. But more work needs to be done, especially by developing economies, for us to have a real shot at broad-based growth. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

In the Declaration, the Leaders affirmed their commitment to attaining the Bogor Goals of free and open trade, one of APEC’s core values.  This message is resonant in the ASEAN region, which built its economic strength on the back of free and open trade. In the first ever APEC-ASEAN Informal Leaders’ Dialogue on 10 November, President Duterte linked the two regions’ shared aspirations by describing how ASEAN brings to APEC’s advocacy of free and open trade its own viable and open trade architecture and its open regionalism.  By doing this, ASEAN opens doors for APEC to advance in the Bogor Goals.

The Leaders’ Declaration also highlighted the important role of innovation and structural reform, and how they could lead to achieving balanced, sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth, four of the five attributes of growth outlined in 2010 in the APEC Leaders’ Growth Strategy. 

More than most, developing countries need to adapt and innovate with new technologies in order to compete, all while attending to the unfinished business of reforms of existing institutions and processes. Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano

The leaders made a pitch for the importance of innovation as a key driver of economic growth and international trade and investment, and for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and “STEM-based entrepreneurship.” The Philippines implements an education strategy that gives priority to STEM.

Inclusion was another key idea of the Declaration. Economic empowerment, especially of women, was highlighted in this year’s Declaration.  This was also an area where the Philippines was specially recognized by the US, a fellow APEC Member Economy, for its gains. 

In order to achieve inclusion, the importance of human resource development in an age where the world of work was changing was emphasized in the Leaders’ Declaration.  Pointing out that the Philippines has one of the youngest populations in Southeast Asia and how this will create a demographic sweet spot for decades, President Duterte expressed his wish that education ensure that everyone who enters the work place “will be equipped to face its challenges, and anyone who sees an opportunity will be able to compete with confidence.” 

The Philippines extolled the APEC Framework on Human Resources Development in the Digital Age, annexed to the Leaders’ Declaration, as “one of the most forward-looking papers we have coming out of APEC this year, as it brings together many of the strands of work needed to transform our societies and our systems.  It helps us in pre-empting change and provides the opportunity for APEC to play its optimal role in synergizing the needs of developing economies with the expertise of their developed counterparts.”

We continue to educate our young to enable them to stay ahead of the curve. The rise of automation and artificial intelligence will impact business operations…, so we need to enhance the skills of our people to ensure that technology enhances instead of replaces worker functions.   We hope that in time, the best and the brightest will see that home is an exciting place to practice their professions and hone their skills. For this, we need to institute a radically new mode of collaboration and technology transfer. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

Relevant especially to developing economies, connectivity is a consistent highlight of APEC work.  This year, leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a seamless and comprehensively connected and integrated Asia-Pacific by 2025.  President Duterte spoke of connectivity at length in several fora in APEC, pointing out the importance of connectivity in the way production networks are organized. 


Photo courtesy of APEC 2017 Vietnam National Secretariat

He also observed that we can draw lessons from the 16th to the 19th centuries on the viability of the Philippines and of ASEAN as the hub of maritime connectivity and countless other areas.

Connectivity is foundational to 21st century prosperity and key to bringing improvements to the lives of all, just as the galleons were to the vigor of the 16th century transpacific trade. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte