THE Trade department said it is once again looking into possible participation in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo in an online briefing last week said that the Trade Secretary has asked the department to study the agreement signed in 2018 by 11 countries — Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The US withdrew from an earlier version of the trans-Pacific partnership in 2017.

Mr. Rodolfo said that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) starting to look at other free trade deals after the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The 15-country trade deal between ASEAN economies and their major trading partners was signed in November.

“For the past three years, we focused on RCEP. Now that it’s done, it gives us more resources to devote to other free trade agreements,” he said.

Since the conclusion of the RCEP, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will consider joining the CPTPP, while Taiwan has taken steps to join.

Trade Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty at the same briefing said that the department will also review the Philippines’ ongoing trade deal with Japan.

“By next year, we will schedule a series of meetings on that,” he said.

He added that discussions on further liberalization measures within existing free trade deals between ASEAN and its major trade partners like China and Korea will continue in the first quarter of next year.

“On the regional level, there are possible free trade agreements in the pipeline. But it would still depend on the outcome of our talks on this, particularly talks on issues and reference papers to be covered. By next year, expect some decisions to be made.”

The DTI targets a first quarter 2021 conclusion to trade negotiations with South Korea. — Jenina P. Ibañez