LOCAL industries, including the agricultural sector, should look at the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as a platform of more opportunities that could potentially attract investments in smart agriculture and research and development, among others, according to an official of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
“As we move forward, our local industries, including the agricultural sector, should look at RCEP as a platform of more and bigger opportunities. These opportunities can range from improved market access in the RCEP region, wider cumulation area, cheaper access to raw materials, trade facilitative measures, innovation and more investments, especially in smart agriculture and research and development,” DTI Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty, the Philippine RCEP Chief Trade Negotiator said in a statement issued by DTI on Monday.
The country’s chief trade negotiator assured that the concerns raised by groups of farmers are “well addressed” in the agreement. Gepty stressed that in the course of negotiation, concerns of stakeholders are well covered by appropriate flexibilities provided in the agreement.
Gepty highlighted that should there be increased imports that threaten the local industry, trade remedies under the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements can still be availed of. In addition, the trade negotiator said there is an RCEP transitional safeguard to address the said scenario by allowing parties to address injury or even threat of injury to a domestic industry through suspension of further reduction of customs duties or increase customs duties following a surge in imports as a result of a party’s commitments under RCEP.
For his part, Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual stressed that the regional trade pact, like any other trade agreement, should be viewed not only in the context of market access but also in the aspect of stability of trade and investment rules.
“The Philippines has only a few [free trade agreements] FTAs compared with other competing Asean countries. Suppose our country is seen to be reluctant to join this regional trade agreement spearheaded by Asean itself, such reluctance would pose many questions about the country’s trade policy direction,” Pascual said.
In a statement on Monday, DTI said RCEP is seen to “complement” the country’s national policies and programs, including those in agriculture, micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME), services, e-commerce, intellectual property, competition, and sustainable development.
Last week, agriculture stakeholders expressed anew their objection to the regional trade deal, saying there is no guarantee the trade pact would benefit the Philippines since other RCEP member-countries are more competitive.
The agriculture stakeholders expressed their concern that “things could worsen, unless we act resolutely and fix the ills plaguing agriculture. More so, if our competitors in the region—in contrast to our complacency—continue to innovate and displace us in markets here and abroad.”
These stakeholders said, “There is no guarantee of their benefit to us, because other RCEP member-countries will enjoy the same privileges. They will be gainers, and we will be losers, if they are more competitive than us.”
DTI earlier expressed hope the Senate will approve the regional trade pact within the first quarter of 2023.