RCEP crucial to investment drive, a priority–DTI chief

TRADE Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a priority of the administration, which deems it crucial to efforts to attract investments.

“RCEP is a priority of the administration. We have clarified this in one of our Cabinet meetings,” said Pascual at the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) General Membership Meeting in Taguig City.

As DTI creates an enabling environment for attracting investments and expanding efforts, Pascual said, “DTI will continue to push for the immediate ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP] Agreement and other trade agreements.”

The Trade chief emphasized that with only 10 free trade agreements (FTAs), the Philippines has the least number of FTAs among the six Asean countries. Pascual explained, “Singapore signed 27 FTAs, Malaysia 17, Thailand 15, Indonesia 15, and Vietnam 15.”

He added that these agreements will diversify the country’s exports in terms of products and services and country destinations, and enhance the country’s attractiveness to foreign investments.

For instance, Pascual said, most foreign investments in China are export-oriented industries. “They are from big multinationals having transferred their production facilities to China and using China as a production place,” said Pascual.

The Trade chief pointed out that without these free trade agreements and RCEP, the Philippines would not be an attractive location for such types of export-oriented enterprises.

Last week, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. told the agriculture officials to submit to him a “short memo” regarding their position on the regional trade deal. Marcos ordered them to specify whether or not to ratify it and to lay down the pros and cons in the short memo.

Prior to being sworn in as president, Marcos Jr. said he wants to ensure the trade agreement will not be detrimental to local industries, particularly in agriculture. He noted that he’s not sure if the local agricultural sector is strong enough to take on the competition that the opening of the markets will cause under RCEP.

Moreover, Marcos emphasized two months ago that the country risks losing its local agriculture sector if it ratifies the RCEP without ensuring that its agriculture sector is prepared for the effects of the trade deal.

However, the President said that he wants to “have a look at it again.”

RCEP is a free-trade agreement among Asean countries and their trading partners Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Touted as the world’s largest trade pact, RCEP represents 30 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) or $26.2 trillion.

It entered into force on January 1,2022.

The Trade department has been lobbying for the ratification of RCEP as it is seen to “help restore business confidence and encourage more economic activities, particularly MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises], investors, service providers and professionals.”

Last month, the 18th Senate adjourned sine die without putting the treaty to a vote.

Meanwhile, by virtue of Memorandum Circular No. 01 dated June 30,2022 issued by the Office of the President, Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) Deputy Director General for Policy and Planning Tereso O. Panga, being the next in rank and most senior official in Peza, is designated as the Peza Officer-in-Charge until July 31,2022 or until a replacement is appointed/designated, whichever comes first.

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