RCEP advantageous to Philippine agriculture – NEDA chief

RCEP advantageous to Philippine agriculture – NEDA chief

Helen Flores – The Philippine Star

February 22, 2023 | 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The local agriculture industry stands to benefit from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), as it will address longstanding issues in the sector and encourage investments, the chief of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) maintained yesterday.

At a Palace press briefing, NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the ratification of RCEP would help the agriculture sector be competitive and productive, contrary to claims that it would kill the industry.

“It must be ratified. The future of our country depends so much on our ability to attract investors, particularly foreign capital, because the domestic capital is not enough… By being a member, we are saying to the world that we are ready for business, we play the rules of the game well and your investments are safe with us,” he said.

“With regards to the allegation that the agricultural sector could be hurt, there’s no truth to that… whether or not there is RCEP, we need to invest in agriculture. We need to address the concerns,” Balisacan said.

The RCEP is a multilateral trade agreement between and among ASEAN countries – including the Philippines – and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand which took effect in January last year. It provides for an open, inclusive and rules-based trading system to promote deeper economic integration in the region.

The Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia that has not ratified RCEP.

If ratified, the trade deal is expected to boost Philippine exports through enhanced market access in the region. It would provide cheaper goods for production and manufacturing, as well as ensure transparent rules and clear mechanisms for resolving trade issues and concerns and also allow micro, small and medium enterprises to participate in the global value chain.

The socioeconomic planning chief said the current problems of agriculture have nothing to do with RCEP, but of “outcomes of past neglects of the sector.”

By ratifying RCEP, Balisacan said the country would be forced to pay even more attention to the agriculture sector.

President Marcos, who concurrently serves as agriculture secretary, earlier said RCEP would be good for the country because of the increased trade that it would bring to different member economies.

Marcos said RCEP would allow the country to further strengthen its agricultural value chain.

Agriculture stakeholders have expressed concern over the possibly massive job losses and bankruptcies of small and medium enterprises, should the country decide to take part in the free trade agreement.

MBC: Ratify RCEP

Business group Makati Business Club (MBC) is urging members of the Senate to ratify the RCEP to help businesses expand abroad and strengthen the economy.

In a statement yesterday, the MBC said it believes that joining the RCEP is essential as it will comprise 15 countries, 2.1 billion people and around 30 percent of global gross domestic product.

“While RCEP would help us enter foreign markets, it would also expose our industries to more competition at home. We recognize that there are valid concerns about this,” MBC said.

“However, we believe that adequate safeguards have been included. We also believe competition will result in better local players and better products and services for Filipinos,” it added.

The group also welcomed the effort that the administration – especially the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – has exerted to further RCEP and encourage the Senate to give it positive consideration.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) also recently called on the Senate anew to ratify the RCEP, stressing that it will play a key role in sustaining the economy’s growth.

In a letter to Senate President Miguel Zubiri, PCCI president George Barcelon said RCEP will play a key role in sustaining the Philippines’ growth trajectory, provide unparalleled opportunities for Philippine businesses and prime the country for further economic growth and development.

“We cannot afford to miss out on the RCEP. Non-joining will disadvantage our exports in the world’ fastest growing area. Furthermore, it is detrimental to our goal to bring in foreign investments, as investors would rather look at an RCEP signatory country to obtain preferential treatments among the RCEP countries,” Barcelon said.

“However, we must also be able to provide safeguards so that the concerns, especially of our agriculture sector, are properly addressed,” he added.

Last week, the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines expressed strong support for the ratification of the RCEP, stressing this will encourage more foreign direct investments in the country.

The lawmaker-son of President Marcos, Sandro, who represents the first district of Ilocos Norte, also joined the fray in calling his colleagues in the House of Representatives to support the RCEP.

In a privilege speech he delivered in plenary yesterday, the neophyte legislator called on his colleagues to “unitedly move for the adoption of this Resolution expressing the full support of the House for the immediate ratification of RCEP.”

“Now is the best time to take on the challenge and consider House Resolution 728. The world trade’s impetus towards globalization, digitalization and borderless trade will not stop nor regress for us,” the young Marcos stressed.

“It is the duty of our government to prepare the country and enhance the competitiveness and productivity of its workforce to meet the challenges that accession to international agreements entails,” he added.

Early this week, Marcos’ uncle, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, led the House in expressing full support for the immediate ratification by Congress – the Senate and the House – of the government’s RCEP agreement.

The Leyte congressman and cousin of President Marcos spearheaded the move by filing House Resolution 728 expressing lower legislative chamber’s “full support” for the immediate ratification of the RCEP agreement.

“The RCEP agreement will encourage foreign investments in the Philippines and allow greater participation in the areas of digital services, business process outsourcing industry, financial services, aerospace, shipbuilding, research and development, and many others,” it stated. – Catherine Talavera, Delon Porcalla

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