The Joint Foreign Chambers called on the Senate to ratify Philippine membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership before the election campaign recess.
The RCEP is a free trade agreement including the ten members of the ASEAN—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—as well as Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. It is the largest trade bloc in the world, accounting for 30 percent of the global gross domestic product or about $26.2 trillion.
Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines president Julian Payne said Philippine companies would be left behind at a competitive advantage in trade between RCEP members if the agreement was not ratified in time by the Philippine Congress.
“As business associations representing major industrialized economies, we are concerned the Philippines export industry that has been severely hit by the pandemic, will miss out unless this free trade agreement is approved by the Senate,” he said.
The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines supported other business chambers, saying RCEP would complement other economic reforms, such as the amendments to the Foreign Investment Act, Retail Trade Act and Public Services Act.
“By ratifying the partnership, the Philippines will show the world that the fast-growing Philippine economy is an increasingly attractive location for new and expanding foreign investment. Ratification of RCEP will be another step forward to benefit the Philippines,” said ECCP president Lars Wittig.
The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) and the Australian-New Zealand Camber of Commerce of the Philippines (ANZCham) earlier issued statements strongly supporting the full ratification.
Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines president Daniel Alexander said the ratification of the RCEP will be instrumental to instilling foreign-investor confidence in the country, “which will be urgently needed to revive the economy.”
The RCEP aentered into force on January 1, 2022.
President Rodrigo Duterte ratified the agreement in September 2021, but membership of the Philippines in RCEP is still awaiting concurrence from the Senate.
The Confederation of Wearables Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP) and its affiliate, the Coalition of Philippine Manufacturers of PPE (CPMP), meanwhile, called for the urgent ratification of the RCEP.
CONWEP executive director Marites Jocson-Agoncillo and CPMP executive director Rosette Carillo said global brands have redirected their orders to the Philippines from Vietnam due to the hesitation of the latter’s workforce to return to the factories because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need RCEP to sustain such opportunities. Otherwise, we again lose these orders, as well as significant planned investments on apparel and textile from countries such as China, Taiwan and others, to Vietnam which is expected to resume its operations in the next couple of months,” the groups said.