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Former Trade Secretary touts RCEP as ‘enabling’ economic recovery

RATIFYING the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal should be a priority because it will help accelerate the economic recovery and ensure food security, former Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said.

Mr. Lopez said RCEP will help the Marcos administration achieve goals laid down in the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Regarding President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s food security goals and promoting agriculture — “The RCEP is an enabler of those objectives… the risks of not getting RCEP ratification would be immense,” Mr. Lopez said on the sidelines of a media briefing in Pasay City last week.   

“I am confident that the thinking, even in the legislative (branch), would be supportive this time of RCEP,” he added.  

The RCEP, which started taking effect in various jurisdictions on Jan. 1, is a free trade agreement (FTA) involving Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Philippines has yet to finalize its participation after the Senate did not give its concurrence as the previous Congress stepped down. Some senators expressed concern over the lack of safeguards for the agriculture sector.

Mr. Lopez said that the RCEP provides more opportunities for the agriculture sector than risks.

“The RCEP’s too specific to be mentioned in the SONA. But that doesn’t mean there is no support. What is important is that the policy direction is very clear and that it is supportive of economic recovery,” Mr. Lopez said.  

“The policy pronouncements and direction-setting mentioned by the President in his SONA are good enough to ensure that RCEP will be a part of the agenda,” he added.

Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual has said that the Department of Trade and Industry will push for the RCEP’s ratification and that of other FTAs to encourage more foreign investment that will aid the economic recovery.  

“Without these FTAs and RCEP, the Philippines would not be an attractive location for such types of export-oriented enterprises,” Mr. Pascual said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave