‘RCEP will expand exports of local farm goods’

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has warned that the local farm sector, which has expressed opposition against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), may miss out on the opportunity to export more products via the world’s biggest trade pact.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a virtual event on Wednesday that RCEP, which accounts for about 30 percent of the global GDP, will provide the agriculture sector “good market” access for their products.

“Some agri groups are opposing the RCEP and I think that is very inward looking. What they would miss is the opportunity to tap the market abroad,” Lopez said. “Inputs to agriculture will be affected.”

In a recent position paper, representatives of farmers, fishers, workers, civil society organizations and private sector said they were against the ratification of RCEP (Read related article: Position Paper on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Trade Agreement,https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/11/16/position-paper-on-the-regional-comprehensive-economic-partnership-trade-agreement/)

They said the trade deal was finalized without consultations with the agri-fisheries stakeholders and now, there is “no more opportunity” to possibly suggest revisions.

Also, the agri representatives said no “clear and consistent basis for classifying agricultural tariff lines” was provided.

“Joining RCEP now means that 75 percent of our 1,718 agricultural tariff lines will be set at zero. About 15 percent of tariff lines will be subjected to tariff reduction, while 9 percent will be exempted from any tariff change,” they said.

Meanwhile, Lopez reiterated their call for the Senate to ratify the RCEP. This not only grants the country greater market access but it also makes it more attractive for investments, he explained.

“Companies from non-RCEP countries will locate in our country to be part of this global value chain, especially the RCEP chain. And definitely, it will boost investment, it will boost more jobs and provide more income for the Filipinos,” he said.

The trade deal is set to enter into force by January next year after meeting the minimum number of ratification by signatories. As of writing, the Asean Secretariat said Brunei, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have sent their Instrument of Ratification/Acceptance (IOR/A).

The Philippines, along with Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia and South Korea, have yet to submit their IOR/A.

Lopez earlier said he is hoping for the Senate to ratify RCEP this month. RCEP was signed in November last year.

The signatories will not be able to reap the benefits of the trade agreement without the ratification.

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