Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PhilExport) President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr. said the export sector believes that the Philippines’s ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will result in an increase in exports and job creation.
“In the export sector, we are looking at opening the markets for us because of the lower tariffs, so we are expecting that it would help us,” Ortiz-Luis said in a statement released by PhilExport on Monday.
However, the PhilExport head stressed that strong safeguards and proper implementation are “crucial” issues that must be addressed, citing the issue of smuggling as an example, as this “will still be a problem with or without tariffs.”
“The treaty itself is okay, but the way we implement things sometimes is different [and] whatever we say in black and white sometimes doesn’t happen, especially in the area of smuggling,” Ortiz-Luis said.
PhilExport said the trade facilitation chapter provides “more definitive and predictable commitments from the signatories, while allowing changes when it comes to openness and clearance of goods.”
Further, the umbrella organization of exporters in the country noted exporters would “have an easier time to comply with the preferential tariff treatment with the consolidation of the rules of origin in Asean.”
As to the “apprehensions” of the oppositors of the mega-trade deal, mainly the farmers, the PhilExport chief said these have been addressed. In fact, he said, “among the tariff lines that they’re afraid of, I think most of them are exempted, like rice, onions, meat and the like.”
Meanwhile, when asked how the government can promote exports under RCEP, Ortiz-Luis expressed optimism that the government agencies involved in export development will give “special attention to export.”
The PhilExport head also raised some issues hounding the country’s export sector, noting that while the country is a beneficiary of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), a unilateral trade arrangement, Ortiz-Luis said “we are not benefiting much from it because we lack the push, especially in the garment sector.”
Moreover, Ortiz-Luis said “many of the promises also of the Export Development Act, incentives disappeared, and even now there are agencies that make it difficult rather than making ease of doing business [as] the program.”
For his part, Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) Chairman Michael G. Aguinaldo said the position of the country’s competition body “lies not in ratifying the RCEP but in the government providing the needed support in terms of finance, technology, so that our farmers can upgrade their operations and be able to compete with other countries.”
Aguinaldo stressed that the issue is not about subsidy but on “leveling up, being able to provide the right inputs which should have really been done in the first place.”
The PCC head noted that one way to be competitive in the global arena is to “build up the capacities and capabilities in terms of technology, know-how, not in terms of subsidy but in terms of helping the farmers improve their lot.”
With this, Aguinaldo expressed hope that this is “something that our government agencies will really focus on,” adding “food security is always a primordial issue when it comes to any nation.”
Image credits: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg