Asia-Pacific Countries Sign Biggest Trade Deal, Fifteen Asia-Pacific economies, including the Philippines, signed the world’s largest free trade deal on Sunday, with analysts saying the deal will boost Philippine market access while others believe it would worsen the trade balance. This poses an early challenge to President-elect Joe Biden as he formulates his administration’s trade policies.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a trade pact that includes China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and all 10 ASEAN member countries. This is the first time that China, Japan and South Korea are all in a single free trade agreement.
“The RCEP will further broaden the Philippines’ economic engagements with its trading partners through improved trade and investment, enhanced transparency, integrated regional supply chains, and strengthened economic cooperation,” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, who signed a copy of the agreement during the virtual ceremony, said in a statement on Sunday.
“This agreement will also complement ongoing programs and policies to make the country a manufacturing and investment hub in the region.”
Lopez, calling the deal a “modern” free trade agreement, said that it covers issues surrounding intellectual property, e-commerce, small business, government procurement, and competition.
The RCEP is expected to enhance market access for key Philippine products including garments, automotive parts, and agricultural products like canned food and preserved fruits, Trade Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty said in a statement.
“(It is) also a platform for more investments in the country in vital sectors such as manufacturing, research and development, financial services, game development, e-commerce, and the IT-BPO (information technology-business process outsourcing) sector,” Mr. Gepty said.
The deal has also been seen as a way to jump-start trade as Asian economies reel from the effects of US-China trade tensions and the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The RCEP will definitely help the faster recovery of the global economy from COVID-19 and a welcome development in spurring export and imports,” Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Economist Michael L. Ricafort said in a mobile message.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte highlighted the importance of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in further pushing for regional integration.
“On the economic front, we must deepen regional integration and strengthen supply chain connectivity,” Duterte said during the video conference for the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit on Thursday.
The trade pact is seen to help in the Philippines’ economic recovery as this is expected to attract more investments, which, in turn, would create more jobs.
The President noted that “growth, to be truly transformative, must be enjoyed by all.”
“We must therefore forge ahead with sub-regional arrangements, such as the BIMP-EAGA, to bridge the development gaps within the region,” he said.
Duterte said measures targeted to address the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic “must be people-centered.”
“The massive displacement of workers, including migrant workers, compels us to upskill and reskill our labor force. We must equip our people for a rapidly evolving labor market under the new normal,” he said.
The President thanked Asean member-countries for extending support to the Philippines relative to its inaugural chairmanship of the Asean Technical and Vocational Education and Training Council.
He said the position would be used to “build partnerships to further implement the Roadmap of the Asean Declaration on Human Resources Development for the Changing World of Work.”
“As we recover, no sector must be left behind. Our efforts should be targeted and inclusive. We must address the disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on women, migrant workers, and other vulnerable sectors. We have to adopt gender-responsive measures and strengthen social protection systems,” Duterte said.
Asia-Pacific Countries Sign Biggest Trade Deal
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