PH sees benefits in CPTPP, seeks membership

The Philippines is looking at new huge market opportunities in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), especially in member countries where it has no free trade agreement particularly the US.

Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said that of the CPTPP countries, the Philippines has no preferential or free trade agreements with five — Canada, US, Mexico, Chile and Peru. The rest such as Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand and Japan —  have are existing FTA partners with the Philippines. 

The Philippines has already submitted its letter to New Zealand in February this year on its intention to accede to the CPTPP. The Philippines targets to accede ahead of the US, which failed to join the trade pact when it was signed in November 2018 because then President Donald Trump did not like it.  

The US will most likely signify its interest to joint CPTPP by next year. 

Already, the Philippines has formally submitted its letter of intent to join the trans-Atlantic trade pact and is gearing for discussions on market access with the CPTPP members. 

So far, the Philippines has already set the tone with Chile with the signing soon of a Preferential Trade Agreement.The Philippines hopes to elevate the partnership with Chile into an FTA. 

For Canada, the Philippines supports its bid to become a regional FTA partner for ASEAN. This is expected to be formalized and is one of the deliverables during the ASEAN Summit in Brunei. 

“Our benefits are in counties that we are not partners yet at the moment,” said Rodolfo. 

Already, Rodolfo has identified five sectors that could find new big markets in the CPTPP countries.

These are electronics, auto parts, garments, raw and fresh agricultural commodities, processed tuna and sardines. 

He said that once the US joins the CPTPP, countries such as Mexico, Canada, Chile, Mexico and Peru can be extension markets for the Philippines’ traditional exports, particularly electronics. Even if electronics products are already zero tariff under the IT Agreement, these new markets can offer huge export potential for the Philippine products because of the products’ wide global value chain.

The autoparts sector is a growing Philippines exports and still have tariffs for wiring harness when exported to the US  as it is not part of the US Generalized System of Preferences. Garments is also not included in the USGSP. 

Opportunities also await for the country’s for canned tuna and sardines in Chile, Mexico and Canada.  In addition, there is also another emerging segment int he plant based meat alternative because these are not logistics sensitive. 

In its letter to CPTPP, DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said that the Philippines is at the initial stage of assessing the country's participation to the third regional free trade deal. 

“We see the Philippines to be in a geographically strategic position within the CPTPP Free Trade Area. More importantly, our intention to pursue accession to the CPTPP is reflective of our commitment to an effective open, inclusive, and rules based global trading system.”