By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporter

GAINS made in building momentum for foreign investment are at risk if the Philippines further delays participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told BusinessWorld in a phone interview that not signing up to RCEP will result in missed opportunities for the Philippines.  

“We will waste our momentum on huge FDI growth during President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration. Our annual average foreign direct investment (FDI) from 2016-2021, even with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, is almost 3 times more (than in previous periods) at $9.1 billion. We are now ranked 4th in Southeast Asia as recipient of FDI, from 6th before 2016,” Mr. Lopez said.

“Investors will shift to RCEP participating countries which have better market access to RCEP markets (if the Philippines stays out), and this will affect job generation. The labor sector will be affected,” he added.

The Philippines is still not signed up for RCEP as after Senate failed to ratify the treaty before adjourning on Feb. 3 for the election break. President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the trade deal on Sept. 2.      

The Senate is set to resume session on May 23, sitting until June 3 before it is replaced by the newly-elected legislators.

According to Mr. Lopez, the DTI has briefed various senators and their staff who had questions regarding RCEP.

“I think there’s just about a week for Senate session, starting May 23. We have given all the data and information and did the briefing,” Mr. Lopez said.

RCEP, which started taking effect on Jan. 1, is a trade deal involving Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

It is touted as the world’s biggest trade deal as its prospective members represent 30% of the world’s gross domestic product.