Safeguards included in the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) between the ASEAN and six major economies are seen to protect the Philippines, among others, from greater economic competition.
“I would suppose that gains by the Philippines from the (safeguard) mechanism of RCEP will be used for the sectors to improve and become competitive,” Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said in a press briefing on Friday ahead of the 35th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits scheduled to be held here from November 2 to 4.
The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – which consists of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – and its six Free Trade Agreement (FTAs) partners — China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
It was introduced during the ASEAN Leaders Summit in Bali, Indonesia in November 2011 to address two proposed trade agreements — the East Asia Free Trade Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA).
The proposed East Asia Free Trade Agreement involves the ASEAN, China, Japan, and South Korea, while the CEPEA includes the 13 economies proposed to be covered by the East Asia Free Trade Agreement plus India, Australia, and New Zealand.
Formal RCEP negotiations started at the Asean Summit in Cambodia in November 2012.
Andanar said the proposed free trade deal will open up opportunities for Asean’s 600-million population to tap a bigger market, estimated at 3.5 billion.
The signing of the trade deal is expected to materialize during the 35th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits.
“I’m very optimistic that after all of the time and the money invested by the different nations, especially ASEAN, there is no reason anymore why this will not be finalized this time,” Andanar said.
“For us, ASEAN, it is very important that we can also send for export our products to other countries that we cannot do now because of high tariff rates. By having RCEP, we essentially equalize further the playing field in our ASEAN region and the additional countries,” he added.
The RCEP is already on its final stage of discussions, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier said, expressing hope that the deal would be signed during the ASEAN Summit this week. (PNA)