DTI creates system vs unwarranted import surge as PH joins RCEP

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2023 11:54 AM | Updated as of Jun 02 2023 01:28 PM

MANILA — The Department of Trade and Industry has developed a mechanism to protect local producers in cases of "unwarranted import surge" as the country begins Friday its membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said.

RCEP, which aims to cut up to 90 percent of tariffs on imported goods for member countries, has raised concerns about the ability of local producers to remain competitive due to the "flooding" of much cheaper goods.

RCEP members that enjoy the free trade agreement benefits include members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. 

In a briefing to jumpstart the country's RCEP participation, Pascual allayed the fears of local producers, especially MSMEs.

"At DTI, we have established an import monitoring system to detect any unwarranted surge in import so that necessary trade remedies or policy interventions can be made immediately if there is such import surge," he said.

"This tool is available to stakeholders for monitoring import volumes of its specific commodities by ensuring imports remain within amounts that will not hurt or threaten our local industry. This monitoring initiative builds confidence and fosters collaboration among those involved."

Philippine Export Development Plan

Economic managers earlier argued that among the advantages of joining the RCEP is that micro, small and medium enterprises could take advantage of the deal by exporting their goods.

In line with this, Pascual said the government is committed to enhancing the export industry by launching the Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP) 2023-2028.

“This export development plan also supports the government's effort toward economic growth that is strengthening the Philippine exports’ global position by promoting trade and investments,” he said.

"PEDP emphasizes the creation of an enabling environment for attracting investments and promoting trade to reiterate we want to further develop our local industries to cater to both domestic and global markets or export markets," he added.

Joining RCEP will also likely attract foreign investments as global firms eyeing to tap the member markets will be interested in setting up shop in the Philippines, Pascual said.

“RCEP is a mega free trade deal that will also facilitate the influx of more investment in the country. With RCEP, the country becomes attractive as a manufacturing hub or production hub for international companies that want to access the markets in the RCEP region,” he said.

The Philippines ratified its RCEP membership in February. 

Meanwhile, advocacy group Bantay RCEP maintained that the trade deal "must be junked" citing its impact on agricultural goods despite the exclusion of crucial produce such as rice, sugar, onion and coffee, among others.

The group cited the agriculture sector's trade deficit which hit $8.9 billion in 2021. It also noted a study that showed the Philippines may lose millions in tariff revenues due to its participation in the trade deal.

"The dire state of the Philippine economy requires a genuinely comprehensive transformational plan that should not include the policies of neoliberal globalization and should instead cater to the overall development of Philippine agriculture and national industrialization that will start the country on the path of inclusive progress," the group said.

"RCEP essentially imposes on the Filipino nation another layer of globalization mechanisms which have in fact kept the Philippines underdeveloped for so many decades," it added.


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