Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez remains optimistic that the Senate will eventually concur with the country’s participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Participation (RCEP) when the session resumes this year.
This as the upper house failed to concur on RCEP ratification, a document needed by the Philippines to make the trade deal enter into force, as the Senate takes a break starting Friday to give way for the campaign period.
“Our participation in RCEP is a matter of time. The Philippines could not afford to miss this. It would be devastating to stay out of the agreement. It will be costly, and we will be missing a lot of opportunities,” Lopez said in a statement Thursday.
The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) earlier presented that the country could miss a 2-percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth if it would not be able to ratify the regional trade deal, and could experience a 0.26-percent decline if the Philippines would be the only country left in the RCEP not ratifying the agreement.
“It sends a wrong signal to the international community, and this may impact the country’s effort in promoting the competitiveness of our local industries as well as our ability to attract foreign direct investments, especially when compared with our Asean neighbors that are already part of the RCEP. This may also affect other international trade engagements we are pursuing,” Lopez added.
The trade chief said the country’s participation in RCEP has been supported by various local industries and sectors, including agriculture.
Lopez said his office recognizes the concerns raised by some farmer groups, but these concerns are well-addressed in the agreement.
“It is always a holistic approach; we cannot afford to just focus on certain sectors. Our goal is a strong economy not only for businesses and investors but for the general welfare. And that means, more investments, more production, more jobs, more opportunities, poverty reduction, and inclusive growth,” he added.
Lopez said some senators also need more time to study the RCEP deal.
“There are just many equally important bills and legislative reforms to be done, and we are really grateful to our hardworking legislators in pushing for their realization, and these include the amendments to the Foreign Investment Act and the game-changing Public Service Act which are major reforms in keeping our business climate more attractive to foreign investments,” he said.