Auto industry’s uncertainties eased after tariff investigation report

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

AUTOMAKERS are facing less uncertainty following the Tariff Commission’s recent finding that there is no basis for the imposition of safeguard duties on vehicle imports.

“The final report issued by the Tariff Commission finding that there is no basis for the imposition of safeguard duty has put to rest the uncertainties brought about by the petition,” Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) President Rommel R. Gutierrez said in a Viber message on Thursday.

The Tariff Commission in its final report released on July 23 said that it recommends that no safeguard measures be imposed on imported completely built-up units of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.

The cars subject to investigation were not imported in increased quantities and therefore could not seriously injure local groups, the commission said.

Mr. Gutierrez said that the chamber commends the process done by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Tariff Commission (TC) in responding to the petition filed by Philippine Metal Workers Alliance (PMA) for safeguard measures.

“The automotive manufacturing sector will continue with its strong collaboration with the government in its efforts to sustain local production of vehicles and address the concerns of various stakeholders,” he said.

The investigation was prompted by autoparts labor group PMA’s petition for safeguard duties on car imports, claiming a decline in local employment after a surge in imports. The Safeguard Measures Act or Republic Act No. 8800 allows domestic producers to ask the government to conduct an investigation into their import competitors if they claim to have been injured by excessive imports.

In response, the DTI earlier this year imposed 200-day provisional duties on car imports to protect local jobs, while the Tariff Commission conducted its own investigation.

Legal teams representing car firms and industry groups affected by the duties in February questioned the labor group’s ability to represent the car industry, given that the domestic manufacturers themselves oppose the duties.

But PMA said that it is a legitimate stakeholder in the car industry because it represents workers made vulnerable by disruptions in the production process. According to the Tariff Commission’s final report, PMA is a “juridical person belonging to the motor vehicles industry.”

PMA has not yet responded to the Tariff Commission’s conclusions, while the DTI said it is studying the report.

Car sales increased 44.8% to 22,550 units in June compared with 15,578 in the same month last year, a joint report from CAMPI and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) said.

The car industry could recover to pre-pandemic sales as late as 2023, Mr. Guttierez said earlier this year. The best-case scenario for the industry in 2021, he said, is 30-35% sales growth, although the provisional safeguard duties on imported cars could lower growth to 20-25% compared with last year’s figure. — Jenina P. Ibanez