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Ex-DTI chief Lopez: RCEP inclusion will bring in more investments

Former Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Thursday said the ratification of the country’s membership in the mega trade deal Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will attract investments to the Philippines.

In an online forum with the Association for Philippines-China Understanding (APCU), Lopez underscored the importance of the RCEP, noting that it will lead to market access in several countries participating in the RCEP.

The RCEP, a trade accord that involves the 10-member ASEAN along with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, was approved by the Palace in September last year and brought to the Senate for concurrence.

Treaties or international agreements entered into by the government require Senate concurrence.

“In fact, 50% of global manufacturing output they are all in these RCEP areas and what it does really help, [it] promote not only market access to this RCEP participating countries but remember if you have these market access which is really what many countries are just trying to be part and it is good [to be] part of these countries [in] RCEP partnership or agreement,” Lopez said.

"What is important in that market access, it will attract investments in participating countries. Imagine if Philippines is not part of RCEP, any investors that we are trying to attract now after passing Public service Act, [and] retail trade will be sayang [a waste],” he explained.

“Because why will they locate in the Philippines where they will have lesser market access to the RCEP countries, and they will instead go to countries that are part of RCEP which would have better market access if they will locate in those countries,” he added.

Lopez said the Philippines would also missed out agricultural export in the market access, if not being part of the RCEP.

“Tatamaan pa lalo ang agricultural sector [The agricultural sector will be particularly hit] if we are not part of this. Remember there are many products— papaya, pineapple, the value-added products we were able to negotiate— these products will have lower tariff in many of countries we are selling to, Japan, South Korea, to everyone, partners natin, we were able to lower the tariff rates,” he said.

“Now if we are not a signatory yet we will not realize this reduction in tariff. Mawawala pa yung market share natin [We will lose our market share], that is my worry,” he added.

Lopez hopes that the RCEP will be ratified in the 19th Congress, saying that the Philippines must not left behind.

“We are more or less expecting that this RCEP will be ratified early in the forthcoming congress, 19th Congress. So we just hope towards August we will have the ratification of this so that we can really start enjoying the benefits of this and we will not be left behind,” he said.

Former Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier raised doubts that the RCEP would be approved by the upper chamber before the 18th Congress adjourned.

President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. also expressed his reservations on the ratification of the RCEP, saying that he wants to look at how the RCEP will impact the country’s agriculture sector.

Marcos also reiterated that the government should look at what will be the RCEP’s effect on the economy before it gets ratified. — BM, GMA News