The seven members of the Joint Foreign Chambers in the Philippines on Wednesday lauded the Senate’s ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, saying the country’s inclusion in the largest trading bloc in the world would expand the network of foreign markets accessible to Philippine exports.
“It reinforces the decision of many of our members to invest in the Philippines and will attract more investment from our home countries,” the group said in a statement.
It also builds on significant economic reforms aimed at liberalizing investment rules, the group said.
The JFC is a coalition of the American, Australian-New Zealand, Canadian, European, Japanese, Korean chambers and the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Inc. It represents over 3,000 member companies engaged in around $100 billion worth of trade and some $30 billion worth of investments in the Philippines.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said after the ratification of the agreement, the government is optimistic that the country will reap the benefits and advantages of the mega-trade deal.
“With the country’s participation to RCEP, the Philippines has now further strengthened its position as an ideal investment hub in the region as we expand market access, facilitate trade, and align our rules and procedures with participating economies, ” NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said.
RCEP consolidates existing ASEAN regional free trade agreements among members and covers trade in goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, as well as dispute settlement.
The country’s economic managers say the Philippines has an advantage as it can serve as a gateway to the ASEAN region, and boasts of a young, growing workforce, and stable legal regime, particularly on intellectual property and competition policy. This makes the country an ideal manufacturing and research and development hub, even for non-RCEP countries. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
Manufactured products can then be exported to RCEP-participating countries with preferential tariffs.
In line with the overall goals of the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, robust business expansion and investment are expected to lead to more, higher quality, and more resilient jobs that will be key to rapid and sustained poverty reduction, NEDA said.
“With the strong support of Congress, yesterday’s concurrence to the RCEP Agreement is a testament to the government’s commitment to creating an environment conducive for trade and investments that are catalysts for job creation, skills development, and technology transfer as we seek to transform the Philippine economy in the next six years,” Balisacan added.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the trade agreement “has been a long time coming.”
“Now that we can see how our neighboring countries have reaped the benefits of joining the agreement, I am confident that we have made the right choice by finally concurring on its ratification.”
Zubiri said this will put the country on equal footing with its neighbors in terms of rules and policies.
“We will prevent trade diversion, and we will be giving our industries a fair chance at being truly competitive,” he said.
He also assured concerned groups, particularly in the agriculture sector, that the implementation of RCEP will go hand in hand with developmental and capacity-building programs.
“We have the full commitment of the executive to make RCEP work, and that starts with the successful implementation of developmental programs for various sectors, especially the agri sector,” he said.
“So if we have to, let us double the budget for the agriculture sector, and let us make sure that the budget actually goes to the right programs.”
“With or without RCEP, there remains a lot of problems to address in our agriculture sector, like smuggling and under-implementation of our programs,” he said.
“But if we don’t join RCEP, we are also depriving other industries opportunities for growth.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda said the concurrence of the Senate to the RCEP is a milestone for the country.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also hailed the approval of the RCEP agreement.
“We laud the Philippine Senate for its prompt action on this very important treaty. This gives a strong signal to our trading partners as to the trade policy direction of the country, and the resolve of
the present administration to provide a conducive business environment for potential investors,” said Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual.