• DTI to hold consultations on FTAs

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    The Department of Trade and Industry is holding consultations today on two free trade agreements being eyed by the Philippines to gain access to more markets.

    In a statement, the department on Wednesday said officials are engaging stakeholders regarding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Asean-Hong Kong FTA (AHKFTA).

    The Philippines is keen on signing trade agreements to enhance cooperation with new and existing partners, and to explore potential growth in outbound economic activity beneficial to the economy.

    “Our goal is to help our country maintain its competitive advantage among Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] member states. One way to do this is to raise awareness on our trade engagements and engage our stakeholders to take full advantage of the vast opportunities arising from further regional integration in the Asia-Pacific region,” Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said.

    The proposed RCEP covers mutual trade between the 10-member Asean and other markets including Australia, New Zealand, India, Korea, Japan, and China. The RCEP block accounts for nearly 30 percent of global trade

    It is projected to encompass a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of about $21.2 trillion. If not this year, the RCEP is expected to be signed in 2017.

    However, member countries must first fulfill domestic processes to join the RCEP. In the case of the Philippines, the Senate must ratify the RCEP as a treaty.

    AHKFTA, on the other hand, covers trade deals involving Asean, Hong Kong and China. Once signed, the agreement will give the Philippines access to about 60 million tourists a year, the DTI said.

    The consultations are part of government’s One Country, One Voice (OCOV) program, a consultative mechanism for stakeholder participation in trade policy formulation.

    Launched in 2010, the OCOV program engages stakeholders in suggestions, identifying policy gaps and relevant interventions, as well as gain support for government moves that advance future trade agreements.

    Rodolfo said the consultations would be a venue to urge the private sector to maximize the gains provided by the Asean Economic Community (AEC), which was took effect as of end-2015.

    The AEC aims for free flow of trade and investment in the region. Asean is a market of 600 million consumers with a combined GDP of $2.4 trillion.

    To date, the Philippines managed to achieve a 92.1 percent implementation rate by complying with 466 out of 506 measures under the AEC.

    Amid the progress in lifting Philippine competitiveness, consultation is necessary to communicate both the opportunities and challenges of trade engagements in Asean, Rodolfo said.

    “Our role is to further guide businesses, government agencies, and civil society in analyzing and strategizing their business directions and initiatives in Asean,” he said.

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