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Thursday, October 6, 2022

Agri sector in RCEP is safe

Makati City, Philippines – In an attempt to allay concerns raised by the agriculture sector on the participation of the Philippines in the mega free trade Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty, the Philippines Chief Trade Negotiator clarified that the agriculture sector is well covered under the agreement. 

“In RCEP, basically we have only liberalized 33 agricultural tariff lines. Of these 33 tariff lines, 17 are raw materials, 8 are inputs and only 8 tariff lines are final goods. This accounts to only 1.9% of total agricultural tariff lines and even less than 1% of the country’s total imports. This is very minimal compared to the huge benefits that the whole economy will gain which includes the agriculture sector, industry, services and investments”, Gepty said. 

According to Asec. Gepty, the Senators and the agriculture sector should see that the exposure of the agriculture sector is very insignificant, and in the course of the negotiation their interest have been protected. That is why more than the exclusion of sensitive agricultural products and marginal liberalization in the agriculture sector, it was made sure that trade remedies under the World Trade Organization (WTO) remain intact, and additional safety nets are included. 

“By not joining RCEP, we will miss the enhanced market access we gained in the agreement which even includes agricultural products such as durian, papaya, preserved pineapple, coconut juice, coffee, canned tuna, and dried tilapia. More than this, our competitors in ASEAN will have the advantage in market access and resultantly they will be more competitive.” Gepty added. 

Asec. Gepty also stressed more than the market access, the Philippines will be missing the opportunity to source raw materials from the largest free trade area for purposes of preferential access and the opportunity to make use of simple trade rules including flexible certification procedures. 

“In other words, our neighbors in ASEAN, will enjoy the benefit of convenience in doing business and trade in the RCEP region while our stakeholders will have to contend with the different ASEAN plus one FTAs.  Certainly, this is not advantageous to the MSMEs.” Gepty emphasized. 

According to DTI, delaying participation or not joining at all will not result in the “status quo”. As pointed out in the previous studies, trade diversion effects will result in a less favorable position for Philippine exports as investments and opportunities are diverted to other RCEP countries. This is not to mention that it will send a wrong signal to our trading partners and investors. 

– END – 

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