THE BRITISH Chamber of Commerce Philippines (BCCP) said Monday that it supports Philippine ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal, saying it will enhance the Philippines as an investment destination.  

Chris Nelson, BCCP executive director, said on BusinessWorld Live on One News Channel that British investors are looking forward to the Philippines signing on to RCEP.

“We consider (RCEP) to be a very important development. The reason for that is… we see the Philippines not only as an important market for investors and doing business, but also as a gateway to Southeast Asia,” Mr. Nelson said.

“I think this is the time (to be a part of RCEP). The only three countries (that have not ratified are) is the Philippines, Indonesia, and Myanmar. The opportunity is now,” he added.

RCEP started coming into force on Jan. 1 in the various member countries. The trade deal will involve Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is touted as the world’s largest trade deal, accounting for about 30% of global gross domestic product (GDP).

The Philippine Senate was unable to finalize its ratification during the 18th Congress after some senators expressed concerns over the lack of protections for the agriculture sector.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. needs to endorse the trade deal to the Senate when the 19th Congress opens on July 25.

Former President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the trade deal on Sept. 2.

According to Mr. Nelson, British investors are looking for further liberalization in the Philippines, which can be supported by joining RCEP.

“We’re looking to see the continued liberalization of the economy and hoping (that) one of the points being mentioned is (RCEP) ratification,” Mr. Nelson said.

Mr. Nelson said that there is much interest in the Philippines among British investors.

“What we need to continue to do is highlight opportunities. We want to meet companies, (and) come here, and look at the Philippines as a base and further (expand) into Southeast Asia,” Mr. Nelson said.

Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual has said that the DTI will continue to push for the RCEP’s ratification, along with other free trade agreements (FTAs).

“With only 10 FTAs, the Philippines has the least number of FTAs among the ASEAN six countries. Singapore signed 27 FTAs, Malaysia 17, Thailand 15, Indonesia 15, and Vietnam 15. These agreements will diversify the country’s exports in terms of products and services and country destinations and enhance the country’s attractiveness to foreign investments,” Mr. Pascual said.  

“Without these FTAs and RCEP, the Philippines would not be an attractive location for such types of export-oriented enterprises,” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave