THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the Philippines could finally sign on to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement by early next year.
Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo told reporters on the sidelines of the recent National Export Congress 2022 in Pasay City that the DTI is hoping that the Senate will give its concurrence to RCEP by the first quarter.
“We have been in constant coordination with the senators with respect to the RCEP and other free trade agreements (FTAs) that we are negotiating… Given the importance of the RCEP and the urgency, we remain optimistic that this will be considered positively by the Senate. Hopefully first quarter of next year,” Mr. Rodolfo said.
According to Mr. Rodolfo, the RCEP paperwork is currently with the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations following the transmission of the instrument of ratification from President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.
“On Dec. 6, the Senate read the RCEP into the record. They calendared it and essentially passed it to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The President has already transmitted the instrument of ratification to the Senate,” Mr. Rodolfo said.
“We will work with the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations so that we can respond to whatever questions they may still have about the RCEP with the view towards facilitating the Senate concurrence to the ratification,” he added.
Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual has said that the Cabinet approved and requested the concurrence of the Senate, adding that Mr. Marcos has reviewed and given the go-ahead for RCEP ratification.
“When I asked President Marcos about the RCEP, he said that he has already reviewed it and that it is okay with him. In October… the Cabinet, as a whole, made a decision to request the concurrence of the Senate,” Mr. Pascual said.
The RCEP, billed as the world’s largest FTA, started taking effect in the various jurisdictions on Jan. 1. Participants include the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
The Philippines and Myanmar are the only remaining countries that have yet to finalize their participation in RCEP.
The previous Congress failed to give its concurrence as some senators raised concerns about the lack of safeguards for the agriculture sector. Former President Rodrigo R. Duterte ratified the RCEP in September 2021. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave