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Comply with India’s rules to determine goods’ origin, PH exporters told

Filipino exporters are reminded to comply with India’s additional requirements to determine the origin of imported goods and the certificate of origin (CO) verification process.

In an advisory, the Department of Trade and Industry-Export Marketing Bureau (DTI- EMB) said they should be familiar with India’s implementation of Customs Administration of Rules of Origin under Trade Agreements Rules (CAROTAR) 2020 which has been implemented since 21 September 2020.

“In line with this, please inform our Office of any issues/challenges you may have encountered in exporting to India related to the implementation of CAROTAR 2020. This would be helpful in identifying the required assistance that may be extended to Philippine exporters to India,” it said.

Under the CAROTAR, importers are mandated to provide origin-related details to be indicated in the Bill of Entry as provided in the CO.

These include CO reference number, date of issuance of the CO, originating criteria, indication if accumulation provision is applied, indication if the CO is issued by a third country (back-to-back), and indication if goods have been transported directly from the country of origin.

According to India’s CAROTAR Circular No. 38, the provision for issuance of back-to-back CO is presently available only under Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-India free trade agreement (FTA) and hence, back-to-back CO should not be accepted for goods imported under any other trade agreement. 

“In cases where origin declared is doubtful, the customs officer is mandated to ask the importer on relevant origin details before seeking verification from the partner country, making it incumbent upon an importer to have sufficient information on the originating status of the goods imported,” it added.

This includes data on how the origin requirement under an FTA, such as regional value content and product specific rules, was satisfied.

Verification could also be undertaken on a random basis as a measure of due diligence.

“For this purpose, factors such as the quantum of duty being foregone, the nature of goods vis-à-vis the country of origin, commodities that are prone to misdeclaration of country of origin, compliance record of the importer etc., may be given regard while selecting certificates of origin for random verification,” India’s CAROTAR Circular added.

Firms urged to tap sustainability opportunities

Sustainability opens up opportunities for entrepreneurs as they go beyond the local market.

Michael Claparols, co-founder of Creative Definitions, said the demand for sustainable materials is growing, especially in Europe and the United States.

“We saw the opportunities in terms of the environment-friendly materials and also the practices. So it gave us the impetus for the idea, it’s an interesting roadmap to pursue because we feel this is the future of textiles,” he said in a webinar.

Claparols cited as examples handwoven fabrics made of blended yarns from cotton, pineapple, abaca, and banana.
 
“But we certainly have other fibers that we can convert to something wearables so that’s where the challenge is and I think that’s where the R&D (research and development) should emphasize,” he said.

Claparols also underscored the need to do more value-added processes in the country as it benefits the farmers, some artisans like the weavers, and other stakeholders in the textile industry.

“...We become self-sufficient so we don’t rely much on imported yarns, other materials. It’s making use of our naturally grown treasures for the benefit of Filipinos,” he added.

Claparols also urged those who want to get into the sustainability journey to understand the market, conduct product research, and implement product development.

“The next step would be to understand the production process and of course in a much bigger view. You have to have mastery really on the value chain so it’s not only one part where you have several issues but also supply of the different materials,” he said.

“The whole idea is really to get to know our capabilities and matching the capabilities with the market potential and of course incorporating new technologies not only new fibers that we have to tap but also other textile technologies. Good example would be nanotechnology that we want to look into on how to improve the characteristics of the
textile for example,” he added.

Claparols said there are local products that can be accepted globally with the assistance of government agencies or some private individuals.

He said securing certification is also imperative.

“Certifications will be needed in the future as more buyers abroad are looking at different SMEs (small and medium enterprises) here in the Philippines so we have to be ready, we have to face it,” Claparols said.

“...It’s more on how to certify our fabrics, to be sustainable because there are many angles in sustainability. It’s not only environmental friendly, can contribute to the green movement, but also the social compliance so we have to have certification for example that our workers are fairly compensated, whether we don’t use child labor or whether we also embrace gender equality and there are a lot of issues so we need to get certification on that,” he added.

Creative Definitions produces innovative textiles using local indigenous fibers.  It will also introduce sustainable handwoven fabrics with water repellence and anti-microbial properties using the SmarTex technology.

The Philippines: CITEM spotlights Filipino food in CIIE 2021

Shanghai, China — The Center for International Trade Expositions and Mission (CITEM) brings 40 Filipino food manufacturers and specialty companies to the China International Import Expo (CIIE) at the National Exhibition Center on 5 November 2021.

The exhibition welcomes various import-export sectors including Food and Agricultural Products, Automobile, Intelligent Industry & Information Technology, Consumer Goods, Medical Equipment & Healthcare Products, and Trade in Services. This fourth edition of the event has brought in 3,000 offline exhibitors from 127 countries. The Philippines will be represented under the FOODPhilippines banner, which is CITEM’s signature brand for Filipino food promotions in the international market. In order to maximize the country’s participation, the FOODPhilippines pavilion will feature multiple food categories including frozen and processed seafood products, frozen and processed fruits, beverages, baked goods and snacks, and condiments.

“China is our top export market holding 27% of the Philippines’ total exports. CIIE is a great opportunity to feature how Filipino products can meet the needs of the Chinese market and also explore other opportunities to further develop economic relations with China,” shares CITEM’s Executive Director, Pauline Suaco-Juan.

Initiated by the Chinese government in 2018, CIIE stands as China’s premier national-level import-themed trade exhibition. In last year’s participation, CITEM reported USD6.17-M worth of onsite booked sales and USD455.689 -M worth of export commitments as a result of the country’s participation.

The country’s pavilion will house 40 Filipino companies namely: AG Grays Farm, Agrinurture Inc., Avante Agri-Products Philippines Inc., B&C Healthy Snack Foods Inc, Castillo Import Export Ventures Inc, Century International (China) Co., CJ Uniworld Corp., Century Pacific Agricultural Ventures Inc., DOLE Asia Holdings Pte Ltd, DOLE Packaged Foods (Shanghai) Co. Ltd, Eau de Coco, Eng Seng Food Products, Excellent Quality Goods Supply Co., Fisher Farms, Gerb Golden Hands Trading, Good Sense Food & Juices Corporation, Hancole Corporation, Hijo Resources Corporation, Innovative Packaging, Island Fun Inc, Jegen S.W.E. Enterprises, JNRM Corporation, Jugard Foods Co. Ltd., M. Lhuillier Food Products, Magic Melt Foods Corp, Marigold Manufacturing Corporation, Monde Nissin, Nutri Asia, Oleofats Incorporated, Orich International Traders Inc, Raspina Tropical Fruits Inc, Republic Biscuit Corporation, S&W Fine Foods, See’s International Food Manufacturing Corp., Sunnjef Plantation Inc, Tanduay Distillers Inc, Team Asia Corporation, Uni Steady, Vegetari Vegetarian Products, and Weambard International Technology Inc.

This year is the second time the Philippines will be exploring the hybrid format in CIIE, where the physical exhibition will be complemented with digital components. The FOODPhilippines pavilion will feature QR codes on the product display so interested buyers can explore more about the products and the companies. Digital lookbooks will also be distributed to participants and will be available for download. Given travel restrictions, Philippine-based exhibitors and foreign buyers will have opportunities to connect through online B2B meetings facilitated by CITEM, along with its partner agencies and business support organizations. Specific for this event and the Chinese market, CITEM has also launched FOODPhilippines China Portal (https://foodphilippines.cn/ciie2021/), which is an information platform where potential buyers from China can explore the different exhibitors of CIIE and request B2B meetings. As an added value to exhibitors, CITEM has also enhanced its presence on China’s social media platforms — Weibo and WeChat, where the agency promotes Filipino products and services to a broader Chinese demographic. For year round access to more exhibitors, CITEM launched IFEXConnect (www.ifexconnect.com) last 23 September 2021 which makes thousands of Filipino export goods more discoverable and accessible to a global audience.

The FOODPhilippines participation in CIIE 2021 is organized in partnership with the Foreign Trade Services Corps (FTSC) through the Philippine Trade & Investment Centers (PTICs) in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong and the Export Marketing Bureau (EMB). Government partners are the Department of Agriculture (DA) through the Office of the Agricultural Counsellor in Beijing (DA-OAC- Beijing) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). The project is likewise supported by business associations such as the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII). ♦

The Philippines: 2021 Hybrid National Food Fair culminates in physical event, 64 exhibitors generate P13.6-M sales

The 2021 Hybrid National Food Fair successfully completed its year-long program to assist Filipino MSMEs engaged in the food industry with a physical event held at the Festival Mall in Alabang, last 15-24 October 2021. This face-to-face selling event is part of the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) initiatives to support the reopening of the economy.

In a simple program last 20 October 2021, DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez noted in his keynote address, delivered by Usec. Blesila Lantayona of the Regional Operations Group (ROG), that: “The food industry has proven to be one of the most dynamic and resurgent through these past 18 months. The ability of food entrepreneurs to quickly pivot to the online marketplace and provide a valuable service to their communities is nothing short of heroic.”

Sixty-four (64) MSMEs participated in the physical component of the National Food Fair. A PINASarap Food Hub showcased the products of participating exhibitors along with a QR Code that provides information about their company name and booth location. At the same time, MSMEs who could not be physically present at the event venue were also featured in the virtual hub with their QR Codes linking to their online store and Facebook business page.

The 10-day physical event of the 2021 Hybrid National Food Fair generated some PHP13.6-million in revenues for the participating exhibitors. Some of the best-selling products were banana chips, virgin coconut oil and other coconut-based products, fresh seafoods, healthy lemon grass drink, and kitchen decors and handicrafts. The top performing exhibitors were: Bahaghari Global Food, Inc., Gold in Grass, CocoPlus Development Corporation, Cerra Furniture and Home Décor, and Gloria’s Delicacies.

In his inspirational message, Usec. Abdulgani M. Macatoman of the DTI-Trade Promotions Group summarized the year-long program of the 2021 Hybrid National Food Fair, which included online webinars to facilitate the digital transformation of MSMEs, online food fairs in partnership with e-commerce platforms Shopee and Lazada as well as farm-to-table website mayani.ph, and the National Food Fair Digital Mall on UnionBank GlobalLinker.

“Through the year-long activities under the 2021 Hybrid National Food Fair, we hope that we have fulfilled our mission to broaden the exposure of our food entrepreneurs and introduce their products not just domestically, but possibly even beyond our borders to reach customers abroad,” concludes Usec. Macatoman.

The 2021 Hybrid National Food Fair was organized by the DTI-Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion in collaboration with the DTI-Regional Operations Group. Through the National Food Fair Digital Mall, foodies can continue to enjoy the regional delicacies and other culinary products by shopping online on https://nff.linker.store.

For more information, please follow the social media accounts on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. You may also email Director Marievic M. Bonoan at [email protected]

More Asean start-ups became unicorns thanks to robust funding, rising middle class

More start-ups in South-east Asia have attained unicorn status - valuations of US$1 billion (S$1.34 billion) or more - in the past couple of years, driven by factors such as robust funding from the private equity markets and rising middle class.

In 2021 alone, 19 start-ups in the region saw an increase in valuation to above US$1 billion, according to a report on Asean start-ups by Credit Suisse earlier this month.

Fifteen start-ups in Singapore and 11 in Indonesia account for the lion's share of the region's 35 unicorns.

Among recent additions to the Republic's list of unicorns are used car marketplace Carro and logistics firm Ninja Van.

Credit Suisse's list excludes start-ups that are in the process of public listing, such as super app Grab, which is headquartered in Singapore.

About a quarter of Asean unicorns are in the fintech space and 20 per cent are in e-commerce, followed by logistics (11 per cent) and diversified Internet/technology (8 per cent).

Most of the unicorns have a consumer-led business model, with very few in the business-to-business space.

The report highlighted that while private equity deals have outweighed public market funding for start-ups in the region, this could soon change. Markets are assigning high values to Asean tech, it said.

The report attributed robust growth in the number of Asean unicorns to several reasons: demographics, expanding middle class, increase in smartphone and data usage, as well as growth in private equity capital.

It noted that some of the Asean-6 countries - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - have among the youngest demographics in the world, which means that the region is likely to be more willing to adopt new technologies.

The rising middle class is linked to the consistent increase in gross domestic product per capita over the last decade.

A large amount of private equity activity has historically centred on Singapore and Indonesia, although Malaysia and Vietnam have also seen higher activity recently, the report highlighted.

Singapore is generally viewed as a favourable place for raising capital, due to reasons such as its high levels of corporate governance.

Quest Ventures partner Jeffrey Seah told The Straits Times that a start-up's valuation is derived from factors such as its capabilities and accessibility of its products.

He noted instances when start-ups have raised funds at a lower valuation compared with a previous funding round.


This was seen for some firms last year, when their sales projections did not materialise or when expansion did not go as planned.

"The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated this occurrence across the South-east Asia markets," Mr Seah added.

Credit Suisse's report noted how Covid-19 has positively impacted several sectors, such as fintech and e-commerce.

For example, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption and migration to digital channels for financial services and these trends are expected to remain in the longer term given greater convenience and lower costs to consumers, it said.

Governments in the region have rolled out policies and initiatives to promote digital payments, with the intentions of boosting non-cash usage and financial inclusion.

Alumni of successful start-ups and tech companies are emerging as founders of new start-ups, the report added.

"Consequently, a virtuous cycle may ensue, where increased growth will lead to greater investment and further development of the ecosystem that will in turn produce more company founders or co-founders or chief executives in South-east Asia."


Source: Choo Yun Ting/ The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited

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Asean+3 likely to grow strongly in 2022

Economic activity in Asean+3 is now projected to expand by an aggregate 6.1 per cent in 2021, down from the 6.7 per cent forecast earlier this year, after posting flat growth in 2020, according to the Asean+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (Amro) on Thursday (Oct 7).

The Plus-3 economies are continuing to drive regional recovery, especially China, which has fully vaccinated two-thirds of its population against Covid-19, benefiting from effective containment measures that have allowed the domestic economy to open up quite fully, noted the report.

Growth for the Asean sub-region, however, is forecast to be much slower at 2.7 per cent, due to recurring new waves of Covid-19 infections and the retightening of containment measures.

Looking ahead to next year, Amro analysts expect Asean+3 as a whole to grow strongly by 5 per cent. Inflation is projected to rise to 2.9 per cent in 2022, from 2.4 per cent this year.

For the Asean sub-region, they expect gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 5.8 per cent. Inflation is projected to rise to 3.5 per cent in 2022, from 3 per cent this year.

"This pandemic has been very uneven... in terms of impact and recovery," noted Amro chief economist Khor Hoe Ee in Thursday's briefing.

The impact the pandemic has had on economies has been dependent on the structure of the economy, for example, how reliant the country is on the services sector such as tourism, as well as the amount of government support received.

Going forward, vaccinations will play a big role in terms of how rapidly economies recover, he added.

"By and large, what we're seeing is that the Plus-3 economies have done well, especially China, in terms of containing the pandemic and we expect the Plus-3 economies to grow quite fast compared with Asean countries which were hit quite badly by this last wave of the pandemic," said Dr Khor.

"But even among the Asean countries, because of the diverse nature of the economy, they've been hit differently. So not surprising, when they recover, the speed of recovery will also vary across the region.

"The most important thing going forward is that most countries have ramped up their vaccinations and we feel comfortable that by early next year, most of them will be able to achieve a certain immunity level and be able to open up more fully. And because of that, the economy will be able to bounce back quite well," he said.

Meanwhile, any withdrawal of policy support needs to tread the fine line between preserving the remaining policy space and supporting the rebound.

"Policy support cannot go on forever, which is why governments need to manage the infection and ensure that the economic recovery becomes entrenched. Otherwise, we're going to see prolonged weak economic activity that will spill over to businesses and households, and eventually to the financial system," said Dr Ong Li Lian, group head and lead specialist at Amro.

New complications that have come online in the past six months include the potential for a sudden and sharper-than-expected tightening of United States monetary conditions, she noted. This could increase volatility in the region and raise domestic interest rates at a time when financial conditions should be kept as accommodating as possible.

"Last but not least, sovereign debt levels have been rising not just in the region, but elsewhere in the world to support these pandemic policies. At some point, if this is not reversed or halted, debt sustainability could become a concern," added Dr Ong.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited

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Acceleration to clean energy can fuel Asean's economic growth

Of all the complex long-term issues facing the world, advancing the energy transition to a carbon-free future is arguably one of the most pressing. It is not just about saving the planet - economic growth is also at stake.

The International Monetary Fund, in its World Economic Outlook issued in October 2021, forecast the gross domestic product (GDP) growth for Asean-5 to be 2.9 per cent for 2021 and 5.8 per cent in 2022. This follows a -3.4 per cent GDP growth in 2020 due to the pandemic. As Asean countries work towards economic recovery, a range of risks - including any worsening of the pandemic, geopolitical tensions and climate change - can impact progress.

Fuelling economic growth requires a steady and secure supply of energy. The challenge of energy security is real in Asean, given that the region does not produce sufficient energy supply to meet its own needs and relies on energy imports that are predominately fossil fuels. Further, the growing energy demand from China and India also puts pressure on supplies to Asean markets.

Meanwhile, calls to arrest climate change are intensifying and environment, social and governance measures are soaring to the top of the agenda for companies and investors. Governments and the energy sector are under pressure to decarbonise the production and use of energy. To that end, renewables look like a promising solution - it provides for clean energy and projects that drive their development also generate significant economic spin-offs.

In the last 5 years, Asean countries have been ramping up generation of renewable energy. Notably, Vietnam has more than doubled its renewable energy production (from over 17,000 megawatts to over 35,000 megawatts), according to data from the International Renewable Energy Agency. Land-scarce Singapore has also increased its renewable energy production by over 50 per cent between 2016 and 2020.


Source: Gilles Pascual, Sanjeev Gupta/ The Business TImes

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5 pandemic tech innovations that will change travel forever

In the 20 months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, technological innovations have gone from futuristic to familiar. These days it’s hard to be out in the world without encountering QR-coded menus or supplying digital vaccine passports.

As the tourism industry—which logged a billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than 2019—sputters back to life, masks may begin to disappear, but many pandemic-era tech tools will continue to factor into your trips.

“Consumers will come to expect technologies that make them more confident about travel,” says Steve Shur, the president of the Travel Technology Association. “Some of these changes are here to stay.”

In fact, a 2021 Pew Research survey of 915 policy leaders, science researchers, and other experts predicts that, by 2025, our daily lives could be even more influenced by algorithms, remote work, and what some call “tele-everything.”

While novel interventions such as real-time translation devices and facial recognition passport control may make travel safer and more efficient, there are downsides, including concerns about privacy, data security, and biased technology. Here are some of the innovations that travelers will continue to see and use.

Virtual and augmented reality

When the pandemic shut down travel, museums and tourist destinations turned to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to create online exhibits and experiences. While some of these experiences are best seen with a VR headset, most can be enjoyed with just a computer or smartphone.

The Xplore Petra app launched in June 2020, allowing users to “visit” Jordan’s most iconic archaeological site by projecting a scaled-down version of the ruins. Lights over Lapland, an Arctic travel company, launched a VR experience to show off the Northern Lights using VR headsets or computer screens.

Post-pandemic, VR and AR may enhance actual trips by adding experiences such as a simulated climb up the Matterhorn at Lucerne’s Swiss Museum of Transport. The Hunt Museum in Limerick, Ireland, has a VR attraction in which visitors immerse themselves in “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” a 500-year-old painting by Hieronymus Bosch.

The Museum of Natural History in Paris has an AR exhibit that brings visitors face to face with extinct animals in digital form. The National Museum of Singapore has an installation called “Story of the Forest,” where sightseers explore a virtual landscape comprised of almost 70 nature drawings from the museum collection. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C., has an app that uses AR to show what some of its animal skeletons would look like with skin and muscle over the bones, offering a new view of a collection dating back to the 1880s.

“VR is not going to replace travel and tourism. It is just going to enhance tourism,” says Anu Pillai, who runs the Digital Center of Excellence at Wipro, a technology company.

Crowd control

To help enforce social distancing, cities, airports, and museums tested or rolled out crowd-control technology including Singapore’s roaming, vaguely terrifying robots that announce people are too close together and signs indicating how large crowds are at airport gates. As throngs of travelers return to popular destinations, similar methods and devices may be implemented to prevent overtourism.

In Italy during the pandemic, Venice began tracking visitors using cameras designed to catch criminals. Post-pandemic, it plans to harness them to keep tourist numbers at manageable levels, perhaps in concert with the mayor’s proposal to add electronic gates at major entry points (cruise ship docks, train stations) that can be closed if the city gets overcrowded.

“We know minute by minute how many people are passing and where they are going,” Simone Venturini, Venice’s top tourism official, told the New York Times. “We have total control of the city.”

Amsterdam, which also struggles with overtourism, tracks how visitors use Amsterdam’s City Card, a flat-fee pass to museums and public transport. Beach Check UK launched this summer with real-time information on how busy dozens of beaches are along the English coast, guiding travelers away from packed areas.

“Technology can be used to collect data in order to both make better decisions and communicate those decisions,” says Christopher Imbsen, director of sustainability at World Travel & Tourism Council.

UV-C cleaning

Hospitals have used UV-C light to disinfect and kill viruses for more than two decades. Now, indoor public spaces including airports, gyms, and movie theaters are adding UV-C to halt viral spread.

“UV-C is having its heyday right now,” says Peter Veloz, CEO of UltraViolet Devices, which makes UV disinfecting technology.

UV-C has germicidal properties that combat COVID-19 and other nasties, both in the air or on surfaces. Depending on the location, new UV-C installations go into HVACs, on escalator handrails, or through airports and planes via light-equipped robots that disinfect as they go.

If installed and operated correctly, a UV-C system can kill all sorts of bacteria and germs. Even seasonal flu bugs might be zapped before they spread. “COVID-19 could come and go, but what won't disappear are normal pathogens,” Veloz says.

QR codes at restaurants

In the early days of the pandemic, when transmission of the COVID-19 wasn’t yet well understood, restaurants hurried to provide QR codes. The little black boxes of pixelated dots and dashes could be scanned with a smart phone to bring up a menu, let you order from it, and then allow you to pay your bill, all with limited virus-spreading interactions with servers.

While earlier fears that people could catch the virus via menus and other surfaces have been disproven, the codes have proven convenient and will probably stick around, especially with late-pandemic worker shortages.

Such convenience might mean a trade off with privacy, however, since the little codes can potentially gather a large amount of information from users. Some QR programs just take a food order, but others mine data like a patron’s dining history, age, and gender. The restaurant could use that info to send them coupons or event invitations—or sell it to third parties.

“It’s an example of companies exploiting COVID-19 to extend tracking,” says Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU. “Moving everything to mobile opens people to new ways of tracking and control.”

Travelers should know that QR codes can be hacked; you might scan one, place a dinner order, and wind up compromising your credit card instead. Stanley recommends treating QR codes just as you do links in unknown emails. Either use your phone to look up the restaurant’s menu on the internet or install a protective app like Kaspersky QR Scanner, which will give users a warning if the code isn’t safe.

Contact-tracing tools

Public health groups used contact tracing methods to identify and track down people who were potentially exposed to infectious diseases such as Zika and HIV, and offer counseling, screening, and treatment. These traditional tools were usually based on phone calls to ask individuals about who they were in contact with and to continue researching exposure. The pandemic pushed officials to scale up such efforts and implement new, higher-tech ones to track viral spread and provide information. 

For instance, Apple and Google added contact-tracing functions to new smartphone software, allowing users to opt in and get alerts if they come into close contact with an infected person.

“There’s been a strong recognition about the value of and the important role of contact tracing for infectious disease prevention and control,” says Elizabeth Ruebush, a senior analyst for infectious disease and immunization policy at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “But we’ve never seen it implemented at the scale of COVID-19.”

Other technologies, such as automated texts, viral heat maps and even CCTV with facial recognition could help track other infectious illnesses or make us ready for the next pandemic.

Even with fancy new apps, however, phone calls and personal outreach will still be at the center of public health. “These tools are aimed to enhance, but not replace, traditional contact tracing,” Ruebush says.

COVID-19 has sped up our adoption of technology. The downside is that this may make it even harder to turn off smartphones while on vacation. Then again, wanderlust is now stronger than ever—and getting lost in the moment still hasn’t been harnessed by a digital code.

 

4 ways to improve your business reputation fast

One of the most important things in any business is how it is generally regarded by the rest of the world. This includes the customers, of course, but also the general wider public, as well as the partners and competitors in the industry – whatever that industry might be. As it happens, there are a huge number of ways in which businesses can always hope to improve their reputation, and in this article, we are going to go through just a few of the most effective of these in particular. Each of these is worth looking into if you are a business owner yourself.

A physical address does matter 
You’d be amazed at the kind of effect having the right address can have on your business’ reputation. But what counts as a reputable address? Well, it needs to be somewhere that most people regard as trustworthy or otherwise important in the area that you are working within, or the expertise that you have. It also needs to be somewhere that sounds impressive on the page. With the right physical address, everyone is going to think so much more of a business, and this is going to make a huge difference to its ongoing success chances. This is especially important in traditional business settings or if you’re a new company looking to gain some credibility.

 

Get your branding right
Of course, in order to have a good reputation, branding is very often going to be one of the most important concerns of all, and this is something that is really worth looking into on a regular basis. You’ll find that a good brand is more or less the difference between success and failure most of the time in business, so it really is worth thinking about in detail. To improve branding, make sure it is simple, consistent, and that it makes sense for the business type and services that are offered. This is what really matters all in all.

 

Be as available as possible
Availability to the public is one of those things that you first learn in business school, and with good reason. The more available a business is in general to people who want to contact it, the more positive the general public’s view of that company will be. There are many ways to make a business more available, from having an open phone line that is looked after well to ensuring that every email is answered promptly. In any case, it’s important to have strong availability at all times, however, that might be achieved.

 

Create and follow an ethical guideline
These days, it is perhaps more important than ever to be able to display to the public what your ethics are as a business. The more clearly you can do this, the better, as it is going to mean that people are much more likely to appreciate where you’re coming from on the whole. It is particularly important with the millennial and gen Z generations, so if they are your audience you’ll need to make sure you don’t overlook this. Show that you care about people and the planet, and you will do pretty well.

Source: Tech Collective SEA

 

Securing data transfers with relativity

The volume of data transferred is constantly increasing, but the absolute security of these exchanges cannot be guaranteed, as shown by cases of hacking frequently reported in the news. To counter hacking, a team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, has developed a new system based on the concept of "zero-knowledge proofs," the security of which is based on the physical principle of relativity: information cannot travel faster than the speed of light. Thus, one of the fundamental principles of modern physics allows for secure data transfer. This system allows users to identify themselves in complete confidentiality without disclosing any personal information, promising applications in the field of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. These results can be read in the journal Nature.

When a person -- the so called 'prover' -- wants to confirm their identity, for example when they want to withdraw money from an ATM, they must provide their personal data to the verifier, in our example the bank, which processes this information (e.g. the identification number and the pin code). As long as only the prover and the verifier know this data, confidentiality is guaranteed. If others get hold of this information, for example by hacking into the bank's server, security is compromised.

Zero-knowledge proof as a solution

To counter this problem, the prover should ideally be able to confirm their identity, without revealing any information at all about their personal data. But is this even possible? Surprisingly the answer is yes, via the concept of a zero-knowledge proof. "Imagine I want to prove a mathematical theorem to a colleague. If I show them the steps of the proof, they will be convinced, but then have access to all the information and could easily reproduce the proof," explains Nicolas Brunner, a professor in the Department of Applied Physics at the UNIGE Faculty of Science. "On the contrary, with a zero-knowledge proof, I will be able to convince them that I know the proof, without giving away any information about it, thus preventing any possible data recovery."

The principle of zero-knowledge proof, invented in the mid-1980s, has been put into practice in recent years, notably for cryptocurrencies. However, these implementations suffer from a weakness, as they are based on a mathematical assumption (that a specific encoding function is difficult to decode). If this assumption is disproved -- which cannot be ruled out today -- security is compromised because the data would become accessible. Today, the Geneva team is demonstrating a radically different system in practice: a relativistic zero-knowledge proof. Security is based here on a physics concept, the principle of relativity, rather than on a mathematical hypothesis. The principle of relativity -- that information does not travel faster than light -- is a pillar of modern physics, unlikely to be ever challenged. The Geneva researchers' protocol therefore offers perfect security and is guaranteed over the long term.

Dual verification based on a three-colorability problem

Implementing a relativistic zero-knowledge proof involves two distant verifier/prover pairs and a challenging mathematical problem. "We use a three-colorability problem. This type of problem consists of a graph made up of a set of nodes connected or not by links," explains Hugo Zbinden, professor in the Department of Applied Physics at the UNIGE. Each node is given one out of three possible colours -- green, blue or red -- and two nodes that are linked together must be of different colours. These three-colouring problems, here featuring 5,000 nodes and 10,000 links, are in practice impossible to solve, as all possibilities must be tried. So why do we need two pairs of checker/prover?

"To confirm their identity, the provers will no longer have to provide a code, but demonstrate to the verifier that they know a way to three-colour a certain graph," continues Nicolas Brunner. To be sure, the verifiers will randomly choose a large number of pairs of nodes on the graph connected by a link, then ask their respective prover what colour the node is. Since this verification is done almost simultaneously, the provers cannot communicate with each other during the test, and therefore cannot cheat. Thus, if the two colours announced are always different, the verifiers are convinced of the identity of the provers, because they actually know a three-colouring of this graph. "It's like when the police interrogates two criminals at the same time in separate offices: it's a matter of checking that their answers match, without allowing them to communicate with each other," says Hugo Zbinden. In this case, the questions are almost simultaneous, so the provers cannot communicate with each other, as this information would have to travel faster than light, which is of course impossible. Finally, to prevent the verifiers from reproducing the graph, the two provers constantly change the colour code in a correlated manner: what was green becomes blue, blue becomes red, etc. "In this way, the proof is made and verified, without revealing any information about it," says the Geneva-based physicist.

A reliable and ultra-fast system

In practice, this verification is carried out more than three million times, all in less than three seconds. "The idea would be to assign a graph to each person or client," continues Nicolas Brunner. In the Geneva researchers' experiment, the two prover/verifier pairs are 60 metres apart, to ensure that they cannot communicate. "But this system can already be used, for example, between two branches of a bank and does not require complex or expensive technology," he says. However, the research team believes that in the very near future this distance can be reduced to one metre. Whenever a data transfer has to be made, this relativistic zero-knowledge proof system would guarantee absolute security of data processing and could not be hacked. "In a few seconds, we would guarantee absolute confidentiality," concludes Hugo Zbinden.

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/11/211103140105.htm 

PH retains GSP status under EEU

The Philippines continues to enjoy lower tariffs when exporting certain products to member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

The EEU, which includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz and Armenia, retained the Philippines among the developing beneficiary countries subject to preferential tariffs under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) starting October 12.

This, even after the EEU Council decided to reduce the number of developing countries subject to preferential tariffs, which are preferentially applied to 75 percent of the basic tariff rate, from 103 countries/regions to just 29 countries.

Countries/regions that have transitioned from preferential tariffs to basic tariffs include Brazil, Vietnam, Hong Kong, India, China, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and South Africa.

Compared to these countries, the Philippines continued to enjoy lower tariffs when exporting to EEU members.

In an earlier statement, the Department of Trade and Industry-Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB) said products covered by the EEU GSP are eligible for a 25-percent discount on customs duties. These include food, furniture, and industrial goods.

Food products include meat, fish, fruits, coffee, cacao, coconut products, sauces, and condiments. Furniture, gifts, and houseware in the list are articles of wood, basket ware, artificial flowers, statuettes, ceramics, and imitation jewelry. Also included are industrial goods like natural rubber.

Meanwhile, the least developed countries that apply preferential tariffs, which are exempt from tariffs, have also been reduced from 50 to 48.

Vanuatu has moved to a regular favored country and Equatorial Guinea has been removed from the list.

The EEU includes high-income countries with gross national income (GNI) per capita of over $12,535 and high- and middle-income countries ($4,046- $ 12,535) classified by the World Bank as criteria for preferential countries/regions.

Global value chain approach for expanding APEC environmental goods list pushed

Adding new products to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) List of Environmental Goods can boost the region’s responses to calls for climate change adaptation and mitigation, and achievement of environmental sustainability, according to an APEC Policy Support Unit policy brief.

 

Carlos Kuriyama, a senior analyst with the APEC Policy Support Unit, said that from a trade perspective, a more meaningful contribution in support of green growth requires a more comprehensive range of products.

 

“APEC economies should explore an expansion of its list of environmental goods, to cover new technologies that could contribute to green growth, but did not exist or had limited applications back in 2012; and encourage APEC economies to consider goods that are cleaner or more environmentally friendly,” he said.

 

The list is a commitment endorsed by leaders in 2012 to reduce tariff rates of 54 goods to 5 percent or less by the end of 2020 with the intention to improve access to environmental technologies and contribute to green growth and trade liberalization.

 

It includes solar panels, wind turbines, bamboo flooring, as well as environmental monitoring, analysis and assessment equipment, among others.

 

Kuriyama said expanding the list could include contemplating a global value chain approach.

 

“Such an approach would allow adapted goods, which are environmentally friendly or cleaner, and whose use is beneficial for environmental protection or resource management, to be factored in. A global value chain approach would also benefit developing economies, as they could produce some of many components that go into certain environmental products,” he said.

 

Kuriyama said the current APEC List of Environmental Goods, while serving to improve market access, is not in itself sufficient to support green growth.

 

Since its endorsement in 2012, the trade of products on the list has grown significantly worldwide and within the APEC region.

 

Between 2012 and 2019, global and intra-APEC trade in the products on the list increased by 6.4 percent and 7 percent, respectively. In contrast, overall global trade (all products) rose by only 1.9 percent.

 

APEC’s exports and imports of those 54 products increased by 5.7 percent and 13.5 percent, respectively, between 2012 and 2019.

 

Kuriyama said tariff reductions, stronger environmental awareness, implementation of environmental policies and regulatory reforms, enforcement of government regulations to protect the environment, progress in developing alternative energy sources and energy-efficient goods, and high international oil prices have motivated the increase of trade in environmental goods.

 

The policy brief said most APEC economies have been able to implement the commitment under the list to reduce tariffs to 5 percent or less.

 

It added most non-tariff measures affecting environmental goods are export-related, and these include subsidies, licences and quotas; discriminatory concessional loans and grants to local exporters; and export tax rebates.

 

Source: PHILEXPORT News and Features