DTI asks Senate to concur with RCEP ratification

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DTI Sec. Alfredo Pascual during the public hearing of the Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship. Screengrab from Senate livestream

MANILA, Philippines — Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual on Monday asked the Senate to concur with the Philippines’ ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement among Asia-Pacific countries.

During the organizational meeting of the Senate committee on trade, commerce, and entrepreneurship, Pascual said that concurrence to RCEP is one of the considerations of foreign investors.

“It is very important, I would like to emphasize that the RCEP be ratified or be confirmed by the Senate because we’ve always been asked by prospective investors, by foreign chambers about how soon they’ll see the ratification of RCEP,” he said.

“The companies in their respective jurisdictions are asking them before they consider investments in the Philippines,” he added.

Pascual issued the remark in response to Senator Pia Cayetano’s query on whether the DTI is considering tax-free importation of certain industry clusters such as health-related enterprises that produce medical equipment in the country.

He said the DTI welcomes any move to facilitate the establishment of enterprises from industry clusters, saying that investors will most likely come from abroad.

This, he said, is where the RCEP ratification will be a factor.

Cayetano also recalled that the legislative measure on the ratification of the trade agreement had been introduced in the previous Congress.

“I’m not sure if this is the committee on trade or the committee of foreign affairs that handles it but we are always happy to learn more. I recall that we are not able to pass it in the last Congress because there were a lot of concerns from different senators,” the senator said.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. earlier said he has no issue about the Philippines joining the RCEP, only that the agriculture sector should first be strong enough to compete with other countries.

Marcos is the concurrent secretary of the Department of Agriculture, a line agency whose stakeholders fear of getting adversely affected by the free trade agreement.

The RCEP is a trade accord that involves the 10-member ASEAN along with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

This was approved by the Palace in September last year and brought to the Senate for concurrence. However, the 18th Congress Senate was not able to act on it before its adjournment.

Treaties or international agreements entered into by the government require Senate concurrence.

EDV

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