Philippines commits to signing RCEP by November

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THE Philippines has joined its trade partners in committing to sign by November a 15-country regional trade deal that includes Asia’s largest economies except India.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a trade pact between all 10 ASEAN countries and major trade partners Australia, China, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. India has backed out of the agreement.

These countries represent almost half of the world’s population, and 30% of global GDP. Talks on the partnership began in 2012.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in a statement said Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez confirmed that he is committed to signing the agreement this year.

“Together, let us send a strong signal that we continue to deepen our economic partnership despite the challenges and uncertainties in the global trade environment。 RCEP remains crucial in restoring business confidence and maintaining a positive outlook in the region,” he said。

The DTI said that the trade pact would give the country a broader platform to source materials and export products at a preferential rate in bigger markets, while encouraging investment in manufacturing, energy, and technology.

“PH exports to RCEP members are also expected to expand in sectors such as construction, transport, and machinery equipment, among others.”

Civil society groups recently called for halting negotiations, which they criticized for lacking transparency。

Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa Progresibong Manggagawa President Joshua Mata said in a webinar that the pandemic exposed inequalities produced by trade liberalization, calling a system based on a global value chain model promoted by the agreement unsustainable.

“We need food, jobs, services and not another secret trade agreement like RCEP… we believe that it is the height of callousness for governments to stealthily push through with this agreement at a time when we are all under lockdown… it is after all an agreement that has nothing to do with curing the sick world, but rather threatens to add more burden to the workers,” he said. — Jenina P. Ibañez