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Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Friday, Oct. 29 urged the Senate to give its concurrence to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP) treaty that he said would prove beneficial to the Philippines.
Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations committee chaired by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, Lopez said that benefits of RCEP to the Philippines include improved market access of goods, services and investments.
Lopez said partnership of the 10 Southeast Asian countries and five developed countries covers 51 percent of Philippine exports, 68 percent Philippine imports and 58 percent of investments entering the Philippines.
RCEP, among to Lopez, also means greater market for Philippine exports, greater sourcing for production inputs for Philippine manufacturers, farmers and even micro small medium enterprises.
The Southeast Asian member-countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The five regional partners are Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
The RCEP framework was adopted by Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders during the 19th ASEAN Summit held in Bali, Indonesia in November, 2011 and was signed by the 10-member states and five regional partners on November 15, 2020.
Pimentel said RCEP is the largest free-trade agreement in history.
RCEP, according to Pimentel, represents one third of the world’s population, 29 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). It is larger than the Mexico-US-Canada trade pacts and even the European Union.
In his opening speech, Pimentel asked whether there are safety nets to counter any risks when the country concurs with the trade treaty.
Lopez stressed that the goal of the 15 countries is greater openness, creating friendly environment and encouraging integration of economies provided by a stable and rules-based system of trade.
He said that RCEP represents 50 percent of global automotive output, 70 percent of electronic products and 50 percent of global manufacturing output.
The business sector stated that it is imperative for the Philippines to be part of a regional growth corridor as the Philippines is the strategic hub in this region.
They, however, said Philippine laws must be simplified so that small, medium enterprises (SMEs) could participate in this trade pact.
RCEP could be used as impetus for change, according to Anthony Abad, Chief Executive officer, Trade Advisory Group of the International Chamber of Commerce Philippines (ICCP).
Abad also touched on the ‘’illogical’’ 60/40 investment sharing of Filipinos and foreigners in corporations as mandated by the Philippine Constitution.
Before the committee ended, those against the concurrence by the Senate of the RCEP asked for copies of the position papers of those who had participated in the committee discussions.
They said they wanted to present a well-rounded argument against the RCEP in the next committee hearing scheduled for late next week.
Like Senator Francis Tolentino, Pimentel said he and the other senators are suffering from information overload after they heard several issues from the 501-page treaty.
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