Philippines Senate ratifies RCEP agreement, preparing for official participation in world's largest free trade pact
Published: Feb 22, 2023 02:18 AM
RCEP. Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The Philippines Senate concurred on ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal on Tuesday night, according to local media reports, allowing for official participation in the world's largest free trade pact.

According to a report from the Manila Bulletin, 20 senators voted in favor of ratifying the RCEP agreement, while one voted against it, and another abstained from the voting.

Observers note that the RCEP agreement is expected to encourage foreign investment in the Philippines and facilitate cross-border trade with member countries in areas such as digital and financial services.

The Philippines has long been ready to participate in the RCEP, according to a report from the Philippine Star, citing the head of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

"I think the Philippines has been ready for some time [for RCEP]," Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said in a television interview. "Our neighboring countries have gotten ahead and they're starting to reap the benefits," he added.

The RCEP trade deal, which encompasses 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and their five trading partners, came into force for 10 countries, including China, on January 1, 2022. South Korea's participation began on February 1, and Malaysia's on March 18. Myanmar also became part of the agreement on May 1.

The Philippines is the only one among the 10 member-states of the ASEAN that has not ratified the agreement.

Over the past year, the agreement has greatly reduced the cost of trade and facilitated the integration of industrial chains, and its enforcement has helped offset headwinds from sluggish global demand and other factors, injecting momentum into the recovery of the Asia-Pacific economy.

Official data showed that the total import and export between China and other RCEP members reached 12.95 trillion yuan ($1.88 trillion) in 2022, up 7.5 percent year-on-year, accounting for 30.8 percent of China's total foreign trade.

Trade of farm products in the region is one of the most obvious beneficiaries. In 2022, China imported 246.86 billion yuan of agricultural products from ASEAN, a year-on-year increase of 21.3 percent, accounting for 15.7 percent of China's import and export value of agricultural products during the same period, an increase of 1.4 percentage points over the previous year.

The agreement played a powerful role in the development of trade and investment, Guo Tingting, vice minister of China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said at a press conference on February 2.

From the perspective of two-way investment, China's non-financial direct investment in other RCEP members recorded $17.96 billion in 2022, up 18.9 percent, while China attracted their direct investment of $23.53 billion, up 23.1 percent. The growth rate of two-way investments was higher than the overall level, the official said.

Global Times