President Duterte is looking forward to a massive free trade agreement involving 15 countries to boost recovery prospects in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the regional summit Thursday, the President lauded the completion of the negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).
The proposed free trade area, covering a third of the global economy, involves Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) 10 member-states and five trading partners China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
“On the economic front, we must deepen regional integration and strengthen supply chain connectivity. In this regard, we welcome the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or the RCEP agreement,” the President said.
The massive free trade deal, which will facilitate greater flows of trade in goods and services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, and intellectual property rights protection, among others, is expected to expand the ASEAN market from 600 million to 3.5 billion.
Apart from RCEP, the President backed other sub-regional arrangements such as the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) “to bridge development gaps within the region.”
“Growth, to be truly transformative, must be enjoyed by all,” he said.
Duterte also pushed for “targeted and inclusive” recovery program following the economic blow caused by the pandemic. He said the regional bloc’s actions must be “people-centered” to ease the impact of the outbreak.
“The massive displacement of workers, including migrant workers, compels us to upskill and reskill our labor force. We must equip our people for a rapidly evolving labor market under the new normal,” he said.
Duterte expressed gratitude for the support for the country’s inaugural chairmanship of the ASEAN technical and vocational education and training council.
He said the country is committed to build partnerships to further implement the Roadmap of the ASEAN Declaration on Human Resources Development for the Changing World of Work.
“As we recover, no sector must be left behind. Our efforts should be targeted and inclusive,” Duterte stressed.
To address the effects of COVID-19 on women, migrant workers, and other vulnerable sectors, he urged ASEAN to adopt gender-responsive measures and strengthen social protection systems.
“We must also intensify cooperation in promoting and protecting the rights of migrant workers, regardless of their status,” he added.