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THE Philippines is keen on engaging with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) members after expressing intent to join the regional trade pact.
Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo told reporters in a recent interview that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is reaching out to CPTPP members to discuss requests on market access as Manila aims to be part of another mega trade deal. The Trade official explained that the market access schedule differs in each country.
CPTPP is a free trade agreement (FTA) among Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam. It was signed on March 8, 2018 in Santiago, Chile.
“Yes, we have written to New Zealand,” he said, referring to Manila’s February letter expressing interest in joining the trade pact. “The next step is to engage both the members of CPTPP that are currently partners already of the Philippines by way of other FTAs and those where Philippines does not have any FTA.”
Rodolfo identified five target export products the DTI would like to secure in the deal: automotive parts, garments, agricultural commodities, processed agricultural products and plant-based meat alternatives, and electronics.
He said Manila stands to benefit from securing zero duty for wiring harness, as tariff is still imposed for such shipments to Mexico and Canada. The DTI aims to include garment exports to the FTA as well because these products are usually “highly protected,” Rodolfo added.
As for agricultural commodities, there could be challenges in shipping the fresh produce to countries like Chile, Peru and Mexico, he said.
This is why he said processed agricultural products, like canned tuna and sardines, may be the most viable when it comes to immediate shipments. There is also growing interest in plant-based meat alternatives that are not “time-sensitive” when it comes to logistics, said Rodolfo, who is also the Board of Investments (BOI) managing head.
While electronics get zero duty, Rodolfo said these products are still among the priorities to expand the global chain network of the local industry.
The BOI official sees no hitch in discussions with Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, as the Philippines already has FTA with them under the Asean Free Trade Agreement. It is just sseking their full backing as it attempts to join CPTPP, he added.
Rodolfo said it is “critical” for the Philippines to engage with the CPTPP members that are not yet FTA partners of the country, including Peru, Mexico, Canada and Chile.
The Philippines expressed its intent to be part of the trade deal after concluding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
RCEP was signed by 10 Asean member states and five Asean FTA partners, including Australia, China, Japan, Korea and New Zealand in November last year. India did not sign, however, due to unresolved trade concerns but the FTA is still open for its accession.
One of the world’s biggest economic deals, RCEP covers roughly a third of the global gross domestic products and international trade.
Philippine Statistics Authority data shows the country’s export revenues fell by 10.1 percent to $63.77 billion last year from $70.93 billion in 2019. The Philippines’s imports, meanwhile, amounted to $85.61 billion in 2020, which is 23.3 percent lower than $111.59 billion year-on-year.