NEGOTIATIONS between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and its economic partners under the aegis of the Asean +6 are likely to result in an agreement by November this year, the Department of Trade and Industry said.
“Hopefully a major agreement by November at the latest. We just want to give our attention here to strengthen the regional grouping of Asean and RCEP, because we want a milestone. At least during our chairmanship there’s an agreement for this new RCEP arrangement. We see the urgency and optimism,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Thursday.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (RCEP) negotiations are ongoing to consolidate the Asean +6 free trade agreements (FTAs).
“If the members of the Asean did not agree on the 92 percent or 88 percent on the tariff for the RCEP, we will offer them to meet halfway just to get through with the agreement. But, that will be brought up during our chairmanship to the Asean Economic Ministers [AEM] in March,” Lopez added.
The integration will also provide an opportunity for Philippine industries and services to become a major player in the Asean region, even as it offers a bigger market for Philippine businesses.
“On top of our agenda is steering the Asean to full economic integration through greater trade and investment among our fellow Asean member states,” Lopez said.
For consumers, this means more variety of goods and services at cheaper prices. For producers, this means cheaper prices of inputs from imports—which translates to more competitive prices for their products. For investors, this means having a single production base, even with the Asean’s diversity with regard to capital, expertise, labor and resources, the DTI chief said.
“For MSMEs [micro, small and medium-scale enterprises], integration means Philippine products and services having easier access to the larger markets of the Asean and RCEP, while also heightening their competitiveness,” Lopez added.
The Asean +6 can help consolidate the region’s gross domestic products (GDP), estimated at $22.4 trillion, equivalent to a quarter of the world’s annual GDP.
The Asean population is estimated to account for over 47 percent of the world’s population.
The domestic market has 100 million consumers and the Asean market has more than 600 million consumers, while the Asean +6 market has 3.45 billion consumers, all of whom become potential customers with duty-free access for Philippine exporters by virtue of the Asean free trade agreements with the six major non-Asean economies, the DTI said.
The RCEP is an economic partnership between the 10-member Asean plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
The Asean members consist of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Brunei.