THE Philippines expects the completion of the e-commerce provisions of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) within the first half of the year.
“The party that gave us the deadline is the ASEAN Secretariat… and the deadline is roughly by the second round of discussions, or the first half of 2019,” Maria Lourdes A. Yaptinchay, Director for the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Bureau of Trade and Industrial Policy Research, told BusinessWorld in Makati City last week.
Ms. Yaptinchay, also the designated Philippine negotiator for the RCEP’s e-commerce chapter, said completion was originally set for last year but some countries raised unspecified objections.
The DTI’s position on e-commerce is that it significantly lowers the barriers to entry and operating costs for businesses, particularly for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which comprise 99.6% of all registered businesses in the Philippines.
Potential members of the partnership will meet again in February to mark the first round of negotiations for this year.
The deadline for the e-commerce chapter will permit the completion of the RCEP deal “not later” than November, according to Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez.
The DTI earlier revealed that seven out of the 18 chapters had been concluded to date.
The completed chapters deal with Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation; Government Procurement; Institutional Provisions; Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Measures; Standards, Trade Regulations, and Conformity Assessment Procedures; Small and Medium Enterprises; and Economic and Technical Cooperation.
Members are looking to conclude, among others, the core chapter which concerns market access for goods, investments and services.
The pact involves the 10 ASEAN member states, plus Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Once concluded, RCEP will be one of the biggest free trade agreements with the 16 participating countries accounting for almost half of the world population; 31.6% of global output; 28.5% of global trade; and a fifth of the global foreign direct investment inflows as of 2016. — Janina C. Lim