AMCHAM: RCEP aligns with PH economic reforms

The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) has joined the call for the immediate concurrence of the Senate on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), saying the trade deal is aligned with the Philippine government’s economic reforms and programs.

AmCham Philippines executive director Ebb Hinchliffe said.

said RCEP complements the existing reforms by the administration to facilitate a more conducive business environment amid the pandemic.

“The entry into force of RCEP for the Philippines complements the country’s programs and policies for the resurgence of manufacturing sector, including incentives provided for by the CREATE (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises) Act,” Ebb Hinchliffe pointed out.

Hinchliffe said the fiscal incentives provided by the CREATE law and the newly enacted Retail Trade Liberalization law make the Philippines more attractive to American investors, and the interest of foreign investors in the country will be strengthened further once the country implements the free trade agreement (FTA) under RCEP.

The public now awaits the concurrence of the Senate to deposit its instrument of ratification. The country will start benefiting from the trade deal 60 days after depositing the instrument of ratification.

RCEP has entered into force in Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam since the start of the year. South Korea will follow on February 1. Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar are also part of the trade deal.

“We would like to emphasize the need for the Senate concurrence of RCEP as soon as possible for Philippines and American businesses based in the country to fully utilize the agreement and maximize its benefits. We already know that we are behind as the agreement was already implemented on 1 January 2022. We hope to see the country implement the agreement by early 2022,” Hinchliffe said.

Department of Trade and Industry Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty, who is also the country’s lead negotiator for RCEP, said Philippine-based enterprises will have broader sources of raw materials at lower tariff — zero duty for most products — through the world’s largest FTA.

The harmonized trade rules in 15 participating countries also provide consistency amid the challenging economic and geopolitical conditions among RCEP members.

“We see RCEP as a platform for our members to source cheaper local goods for production and manufacturing, as well as benefit the country’s vital sectors such as the creative sectors, financial services, research and development, IT-BPM (information technology and business process management), professional services, and energy, given the transparent, stable and predictable rules that the agreement provides,” Hinchliffe added. He assured business groups stand ready to support the government in implementing the FTA.

“The Philippines cannot afford not to join RCEP as it will not be a good signal not only to foreign investors but even to Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) itself,” he added.