THE Philippines is supporting the admission of India into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade bloc, which New Delhi withdrew from in 2019, with the Department of Trade and Industry saying that the bloc could benefit from having another large market as a member.

Trade Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty said in a webinar on Monday that encouraging India to re-enter RCEP will boost the economies belonging to the trade bloc.

“With the size of India, contributing around 1.3 billion people, then that would really make RCEP unquestionably as the world’s largest trading bloc. And in terms of comparative advantage noting that all economic activities have now gravitated towards India, that will really strengthen not just the economic integration here in the region, but the capability of the economic bloc to influence and shape rules of international trade,” Mr. Gepty said.

“RCEP parties would also benefit from the inclusion of India in terms of enhanced market access, increased participation in regional supply chains, and even accelerated economic growth in the region,” he added.

India backed out of RCEP negotiations in November 2019, amid concerns it will need to open its market to cheap Chinese imports following the gradual removal of tariffs and the effect on its farmers and workers.

RCEP is a trade agreement that started to come into force in 11 countries on Jan. 1. The trade bloc members are Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

According to Mr. Gepty, the re-entry of India will help balance the interests of major economies in RCEP.

“Given the size of the Indian economy, I would say that its participation in RCEP will also contribute in the balancing of interests and also power within the free trade area,” he said, referring to the other outsized economy within the bloc, China.  

“I don’t think that we can embrace inward policies at this time. We have to embrace globalization. We can only enhance the rules and take advantage of the opportunities that it brings,” he added.

The Philippines has yet to join RCEP as the Senate was unable to give its concurrence before adjourning on Feb. 3 for the election break. President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the RCEP deal on Sept. 2. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave