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?One way to do this is to raise awareness on our trade engagements and engage our stakeholders to take full advantage of the vast opportunities arising from further regional integration in the Asia-Pacific region,? he said in a statement yesterday.

RCEP -- which is composed of ASEAN and its dialogue partners Australia, New Zealand, India, Korea, Japan and China -- accounts for nearly 30% of world trade. Once in place, it is expected to have a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of about $21.2 trillion.

AHKFTA, or ASEAN?s trade engagement with Hong Kong and China, offers the country market access to an estimated 60 million tourists a year, DTI said.

The department said the consultation with stakeholders fall under a government program called ?One Country, One Voice? that aims to provide a mechanism for the private sector to participate in formulating trade policy.

The program ?engages stakeholders to identify policy gaps and relevant interventions and support the development of government?s positions and appropriate strategies for negotiating current and possible future trade engagements,? DTI said.

Mr. Rodolfo said the consultation will also be a venue to urge the private sector to maximize the gains provided by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which had its ceremonial launch on Dec. 31, 2015.

AEC, an envisioned regional market for the free flow of trade and investments, serves 600 million people in countries with a combined GDP of $2.4 trillion. The Philippines is said to have achieved around 92% or 466 of the 506 measures in the AEC scorecard.

?Our role is to further guide businesses, government agencies, and civil society in analyzing and strategizing their business directions and initiatives in ASEAN,? Mr. Rodolfo said.

He said that while the country was making ?good progress? towards greater competitiveness, the consultation was needed ?to communicate both the opportunities and challenges of our trade engagements in ASEAN.?

Under the current administration, the Trade department has been engaging in several national and regional consultation sessions on trade-related issues. These include preparations for the review of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, the proposed Philippines-European Union Free Trade Agreement, the Philippine-European Free Trade Association FTA, the European Union?s Generalized Scheme of Preferences and the World Trade Organization. ?

Related releases from Business Mirror and The Manila Times.



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