Secretary Ramon Lopez, together with trade officials at the 18th RCEP.
Trade officials from all 10 ASEAN Member States and six Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners gathered for the 18th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Trade Negotiating Committee Meeting and Related Meetings on 8 to 12 May 2017 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

Trade officials from 10 ASEAN Members States (AMS) and six free trade agreement (FTA) partners China, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India are all set for the 18th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) Meeting and Related Meetings from 8 to 12 May 2017.

“RCEP should be able to demonstrate that we continue to underscore the developmental function of international trade that benefits ultimately the broader base of the economy,” said Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez, who also serves as chairperson of the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Meetings 2017.

To keep the momentum going, it becomes all the more important that the overall RCEP package will suit the developmental needs of the RCEP Parties.

“For the Philippines, RCEP should translate to more jobs and more business opportunities leading to higher incomes for many Filipinos,” the trade chief added.

Deeper ‘integration’ through RCEP

The ASEAN-centric and ASEAN-led RCEP is considered the new tailwind for global growth as it heads towards a more substantive phase following 17 rounds.

The Manila Round will entail redoubling of efforts in order to deliver the broader and deeper commitments being called for goods, services and investment liberalization given the mandate of Leaders to substantially conclude RCEP this year.

RCEP aims to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement. Once concluded, this will further contribute in deepening ASEAN’s economic integration and heighten its role in global trade and investment.

RCEP is poised to boost global growth by expanding the ASEAN consumer base of 620 million to 3.5 billion, integrating the major economic player markets, which will account for almost half of the world’s population and almost 30 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

PH pushes interests in RCEP

As host, the Philippines joins the rest of AMS in finding creative solutions to outstanding issues, as Parties try to reconcile differing views and achieve a balance among the interests of the developed, developing and least developed economies, as well as to address these in the most efficient and equitable manner.

The bid to move RCEP forward requires political willingness, especially at the moment where return to economic protectionism is being considered in some parts of the world.

As one of the key players, the Philippines continues to push sectors, wherein the country has trade and export interests such as canned tuna, fresh pineapples, mangoes, garments of synthetic fibers, raw cane sugar, crude coconut oil, cut tobacco, bananas and coconut copra oil, among others.

The Philippines supports the streamlining of certification procedures for RCEP originating goods taking into consideration latest business practices.

RCEP also aims at streamlining customs procedures that go beyond some areas of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Facilitation. Parties are exploring setting a 48-hour release time for imported goods.

In the area of trade and services, RCEP is expected to bring freer movement of Filipino skilled labor in professional services such as accountancy, engineering, architecture, computer-related services and other business services across 16 RCEP participating countries.

Concrete achievements of the Manila Round will further contribute to the Philippine hosting of ASEAN 2017 as a milestone year. The 18th RCEP TNC Meeting and Related Meetings places the Philippines at the core of the region’s continuing work with its economic partners in further integrating ASEAN into the global economy.