PCCI says concerns about RCEP no bar to joining trade bloc

THE Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said the issues raised against joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) should pose no obstacle to participating in the trade deal.

“Regarding the concerns of other sectors, I don’t think it should stop us. If you look at the broader picture, many of our Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) neighbors are on board with the RCEP. It will be a waste if we are not a part of it,” PCCI President George T. Barcelon told BusinessWorld.

Mr. Barcelon was asked to comment on President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s declaration of support for participating in RCEP after the palace concluded a review on the trade deal’s potential impact on industries like agriculture.

“I am glad that the President backed (ratification). We have always taken the view that the RCEP should be ratified by the Senate,” Mr. Barcelon said.

“If the Senate can ratify the RCEP before the year ends, why not? At least, the Philippines will be on equal footing with other countries,” he added.

Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual had announced that Mr. Marcos threw his backing behind joining RCEP.

Mr. Pascual also confirmed that the Cabinet has agreed to ask the Senate for its concurrence.

“When I asked President Marcos about the RCEP, he said that he has reviewed it and that it is okay with him. We had a Cabinet decision in October that the Cabinet, as a whole, (will) request the concurrence of the Senate,” Mr. Pascual said.  

Mr. Marcos called for the RCEP review to ensure that safeguards are in place for agriculture.

RCEP started taking effect in the various jurisdictions on Jan. 1. It is the largest free trade agreement (FTA) with participating countries including the 10 ASEAN members, Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

The Philippines Senate considered the FTA in the previous sitting of Congress but failed to come to a decision before the session adjourned.   

The Philippines and Myanmar are the last two countries that have yet to confirm their participation in RCEP.

RCEP participation was approved by former President Rodrigo R. Duterte in September 2021 but must be ratified by the Senate to take effect. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave