Malacanang has ratified the Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (RCEP), a mega free trade deal seeking to grant zero duty on goods traded among 15 countries that account for 29 percent of global gross domestic product.
The document was ratified by President Rodrigo Duterte on September 2 and was already brought to the Senate for concurrence. After the Senate process, the Philippines instrument of ratification will be deposited with the ASEAN secretary-general, marking the country’s completion of the ratification process for the RCEP.
When asked if the RCEP concurrence request at the Senate is expected to face some opposition or it could be smooth sailing, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said, “No expectation, but we are prepared to endorse and present the benefits of RCEP and why we cannot be left behind.”
Once ratified by three-fifths of the 15 signatories – namely six ASEAN countries and three non-ASEAN countries, the RCEP agreement will enter into force in 60 days. The target date for its implementation is January 1, 2022. So far, China, Singapore and Japan already deposited their instruments of ratification, but Lopez expects majority of RCEP countries to have ratified before yearend.
DTI Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty said that with the benefits of RCEP to the Philippines, “Stakeholders are looking forward to its effectivity and implementation. The sooner Philippines becomes a party to the Agreement, the sooner we reap the benefits. That is why we want to be the first set of signatories to deposit the instrument of ratification so that upon effectivity of RCEP, the Philippines is already a party.”
Under RCEP, Philippines can position itself as an investment hub, innovation hub, manufacturing hub, and the center for training and education in the region. “So I believe, it’s really for our best interest to cooperate and work together for its immediate concurrence by the Senate,” he said.
The RCEP is designed to eliminate as much as 90 percent of the tariffs on goods traded between its signatories over the next 20 years from the agreement coming into effect.
RCEP members include the 10 countries of ASEAN and their regional trade partners – China, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and Japan.
The RCEP Agreement was signed by trade ministers from the ASEAN member states plus Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand during the fourth RCEP Leaders’ Summit held on 15 November 2020.
The new trade pact between ASEAN and its free trade partners aims to establish a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership to expand regional trade and investment and global economic growth and development.
Aside from trade in goods, trade in services, temporary movement of natural persons, and investment, the RCEP Agreement also covers emerging areas in trade such as government procurement (GP), intellectual property, electronic commerce, and competition
The 15 countries within RCEP represent a population of 2.3 billion, 30% of the world’s population, and account for 29 percent of global gross domestic product.