MANILA - After 8 years, negotiators are finally set to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement in November despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A day after participating in a virtual meeting with his RCEP counterparts, Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Friday they settled pending issues surrounding the trade deal.
He said the Philippines was set to benefit from the trade deal, which is seen to be the biggest in the world, as it would open up more markets for the country's merchandise and service exporters, and even micro, small and medium enterprises.
"The whole organization counts for about 30 percent of the world's population," Lopez said. "In terms of GDP (gross domestic product), around 28 percent to 29 percent, and in terms of total exports the RCEP countries also account for about 28 percent."
"For the Philippines, our interest to the RCEP countries, about one half of all our export transactions are to RCEP countries," he added.
Lopez also expressed confidence the trade deal could help bring in much-needed investments and jobs to help the country recover from the economic slump brought about by the health crisis.
"And as you know maraming nawalan ng trabaho ngayon. We should be able to attract more investments that would create the jobs and more products to produce to be able to export to maximize this FTA with 14 other countries," he said.
(And as you know a lot of Filipinos lost their jobs. We should be able to attract more investments that would create jobs and more products to produce to be able to export to maximize this FTA with 14 other countries.)
Among the sectors and products seen to benefit from the trade deal are auto parts, garments, electrical machinery, fresh and preserved fruits and vegetables, as well as services in telecommunications, transportation, finance, insurance and construction.
But as for exactly how much the Philippines will stand to gain from the agreement, Lopez said: "We are having a second round of studies para ma-update in light of the pandemic, but definitely, this will give us more benefit than cost, certainly because of more markets being open."
(We are having a second round of studies to update estimates in light of the pandemic, but definitely this will give us more benefit than cost, certainly because of more markets being open.)
Launched in November 2012, RCEP is an initiative by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations along with 5 other partner nations -- Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea -- to stimulate trade in the region.
It is seen to facilitate 27.8 percent of the world's total trade worth $10.5 trillion with $5.5 trillion in exports and $4.9 trillion in imports.