THE Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could serve to counteract growing calls for protectionism in response to the resource scarcity resulting from the war in Ukraine, keeping trade and investment levels high, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.  

“Considering that in the midst of the pandemic and growing trend in protectionism, the fact that RCEP offers a stable and predictable business environment will surely attract investments in the region including the Philippines,” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said during the virtual General Membership Meeting of the Management Association of the Philippines on Thursday.   

Mr. Lopez said the RCEP also offers an opportunity for the trading bloc’s economies to revive by enhancing trade across the Asia-Pacific region.   

“As the world struggles to recover from the negative impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic as well as the current Russia-Ukraine crisis, the RCEP presents a unique opportunity for the country and the region to rebuild the economies of the RCEP parties. It is also expected to strengthen economic linkages and deepen trade and investment relations to facilitate post-pandemic growth and recovery,” Mr. Lopez said.

Mr. Lopez said the benefits of RCEP will extend to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), services, and agriculture.   

“Our MSMEs will have the opportunity to access cheaper raw materials for production and manufacturing and at the same time access to a big market for their products. Farmers can benefit from having access to cheaper farm inputs and farm implements that can be used to boost their production.” Mr. Lopez said.   

“Fishers will not only benefit from an enhanced market access for fish products but can also fish outside the RCEP region and process their catch in the country for export to 14 RCEP countries, still complying with the rules of origin. RCEP opens employment opportunities in RCEP countries for Filipinos on a comprehensive range of sectors, such as professional services, education services, and banking services,” he added.   

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said at the same meeting that the agriculture sector will also benefit from the Philippines’ participation in RCEP.   

“We do not want to be left behind. We have to make agriculture a priority, and align our national priorities towards improving local productivity before we can truly become an export-oriented sector,” Mr. Dar said.

“I have always said that agriculture is a sleeping giant and it’s time that we view this sector as such. It needs to conform to existing business realities. With RCEP, we are on our way towards transforming agriculture — making it prosperous and world class,” he added.  

RCEP is a trade agreement that involves Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Philippines has yet to join RCEP as the Senate was unable to give its concurrence before sessions were adjourned on Feb. 3 for the election break. President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ratified the RCEP on Sept. 2 last year.    

Meanwhile, Trade Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty said in a separate virtual briefing on Thursday that the country’s exports will receive a boost once the discussions on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the Philippines and United Arab Emirates (UAE) are done.   

“On the aspect of goods, definitely there will be an enhancement in our exports, particularly Philippine products in this country primarily because UAE is one of the destinations of our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). We have a high number of OFWs in UAE. And that means market for our businesses. There are a lot of Philippines companies and businesses located in the UAE,” Mr. Gepty said.   

“In terms of importation, it will further stabilize our trade relations with them, particularly in the importation of key products such as petroleum. On the aspect of services, we see that there will be a lot of opportunities that we can gain or derive from this CEPA. We will be negotiating all subsectors such as business services and financial services,” he added.   

Last month, the DTI announced that the Philippines and UAE have started official talks on the CEPA, while also finishing negotiations on the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement which covers the promotion, facilitation, and protection of investments. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave