MANILA, PHILIPPINES—Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual says, “It’s all systems go,” as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement—a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually-beneficial economic partnership—will enter into force for the Philippines on 2 June 2023. This, following the Senate’s approval on the ratification of the Agreement early this year. With the issuance of Executive Order (EO) No. 25 s. 2023, the Philippines’ tariff commitments under the RCEP are set to be implemented.

Describing the RCEP as a “Mega free trade deal,” Secretary Pascual says the Philippines has secured enhanced market access for key products of interest such as preserved pineapples, durian, chocolate, and ignition wiring sets. “We see RCEP as a critical key toward inclusive economic growth, not only for the Philippines but within ASEAN,” he said.

RCEP features improved rules and procedures, which is expected to aid businesses in conducting trade in the region. This includes advanced customs procedures to facilitate trade and a single set of rules of origin (ROO) to transact with 14 trading partners.

“We have also secured one big advantage of RCEP—the expanded cumulation area, allowing exporters to source raw materials from 14 countries, and secure preferential market access to a bigger free trade area,” he added.

The Trade Secretary shared that the Department is set to hold a press briefing on the same day the mega free trade deal will take effect, which is on 2 June 2023, at the Philippine Board of Investments. According to him, this is part of the DTI’s initiatives to spread public awareness on the benefits of RCEP, especially for the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)—the backbone of the Philippine economy.

The scheduled press briefing also aims to encourage local stakeholders to take advantage of the benefits of an open, inclusive, and rules-based trading system that is expected to increase trade and investments in the region. Likewise, the DTI is set to launch an information and advocacy campaign to promote RCEP as well as other trade agreements/engagements of the Philippines in collaboration with the Office of the President (OP).

The RCEP Agreement was signed on 15 November 2020 and is composed of the 10 ASEAN Member States (AMS) and five (5) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners, namely, Australia, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, and New Zealand.