DTI still hopeful for RCEP concurrence this month

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) remains hopeful that the Senate will concur with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Asean-led free trade deal with its five free trade partners, this month.

This, as Congress is expected to resume its session on May 23.

“At present, our focus is on the present Congress… We will try our best that the RCEP will finish the process when the Senate resumes this month,” DTI Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty said in a webinar of the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) Wednesday.

After it was ratified by President Rodrigo Duterte in September last year, the Senate’s concurrence on RCEP is needed before the country can deposit its instrument of ratification.

The country can reap the benefits of the free trade agreement (FTA) two months after depositing the ratification document.

“Not only this is (a) very important milestone free trade agreement for Asean but very important and critical agreement for the Philippines, not to mention that this is also a legacy of the current administration because this FTA has been negotiated for almost eight years —it’s in the present administration that we conclude (it). Hopefully, our senators can act on this RCEP agreement this month,” said Gepty, who is also the country’s lead negotiator for RCEP.

He said that with the rapid increase in commodity prices, RCEP could help in managing inflation.

“Through FTAs, tariff rates have been liberalized which in effect lowers the prices of goods which includes raw materials, intermediate goods, and final goods,” Gepty added.

He said Philippine agricultural products will be more competitive in 14 other participating countries.

For instance, the papaya and durian tariff to South Korea is currently at 24 percent under the Asean-Korea FTA (AKFTA). It will be down to zero in 10 years under RCEP.

“Without RCEP, then their competitors in Malaysia and Thailand will have an advantage because they will be enjoying the said preferential arrangement while our local farmers and exporters under AKFTA will not be enjoying said benefits,” Gepty said.

For Philippine pineapple exports to China, tariff under Asean-China FTA is at 5 percent. It will drop to zero in 20 years under RCEP.

“Without RCEP, their competitors in Indonesia and Thailand will be enjoying the said benefits while our farmers and exporters will be placed in a disadvantaged position,” he added. (PNA)

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