MANILA - The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Oor RCEP is a free trade agreement among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
The agreement eliminates up to 90 percent of tariffs, or the taxes imposed on imports, among these countries within 20 years. It also lays down new rules for e-commerce, intellectual property, government procurement, competition, and small and medium enterprises.
The government says that by joining RCEP, the Philippines gains improved market access for goods and services to other member countries, as well as reduced trade barriers.
Through RCEP, the Philippines secures better tariff concessions from China, Japan, and South Korea for some agri-fishery products including pineapples, papayas and chocolates, it added.
Only 15 agricultural commodities will see lower tariff rates. On the other hand, there will be no tariff cuts on rice, corn, pork, poultry meat, potatoes, onions, garlic, coffee, sugar and other products deemed “sensitive.”
Opponents of RCEP say the country’s agricultural sector is not prepared for the free trade deal. Local farmers are still dealing with low productivity, high production costs, and poor quality of products, among others, they said.
They fear that RCEP will result in a flood of imports, and local farmers will not be able to compete.
The Federation of Free Farmers noted that in 2019, all RCEP countries, except for Japan, sold more agricultural products to the Philippines than it exported to them.
RCEP started being implemented on Jan., 1 2022 by Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, China, Japan, and New Zealand. South Korea followed suit on Feb. 1 of the same year, while Malaysia did so on March 18 of that year.
The agreement was signed by then President Rodrigo Duterte on Sept. 2, 2021, but it still needs to be ratified by the Senate.
President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has said that ratifying RCEP was a priority of his administration.