By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would mean greater access for the Philippines agriculture products, industrial inputs and services.
Lopez joined other trade ministers of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) countries in holding marathon meetings on All Souls’ Day, November 2, to conclude the remaining chapters that will govern the mega trade deal.
Lopez said the results of the trade ministers’ meeting shall then be reported in the forthcoming meeting of the heads of states of the 16 RCEP participating countries. One RCEP country though has yet to resolve some pending issues. The RCEP Summit is scheduled on November 4, and is part of the ASEAN Leaders Summit that started Saturday.
Lopez said that the trade ministers had to meet in executive sessions the whole day Friday November 1 to resolve the remaining issues on the rules that will govern the trade and investments in this mega Free Trade Agreement that covers the 10 ASEAN countries plus its 6 trading partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea).
RCEP negotiations cover 20 Chapters and this year’s negotiations were fast-tracked, to follow the mandate given by the RCEP leaders in their last year’s meeting in Singapore. Lopez said that as of end 2018, seven 7 chapters were concluded and several Ministerial and technical negotiating meetings were held this year to ensure that the remaining 13 chapters be completed.
RCEP covers one half of the world’s population and one third of the world’s economy and also a third of global trade. Considering its size and coverage, it took almost 7 years since its commencement of negotiations in 2012.
With the conclusion of the text-based chapters, legal scrubbing follows. There are however a few remaining bilateral negotiations needed on products and services to be covered under market access, but these negotiations are mandated to be done by February 2020. Signing is scheduled to take place next year in Vietnam, as 2020 host country.
For Philippines, Lopez said, this means greater market access in other RCEP countries for a wide range of products like major agricultural products, pineapples, coconut products, banana. Others are auto parts, paper, soaps, airbags, footwear, tires, just to name a few. It includes practically most traded items, with the exclusion of few sensitive products mostly in agriculture.
For services, this means we can also provide services on R and D, agriculture, construction, air marine, transport services, legal, accounting, auditing, engineering, urban planning, medical, dental, distribution, environment, health services, as examples.
RCEP conclusion is said to be timely, as it provides a positive milestone in a global trade environment filled with uncertainties and challenges. RCEP can strengthen the rules-based system which shall encourage greater flows of trade and investments, creating more opportunities for jobs, income and prosperity in the region.