DTI: PH participation in RCEP will not weaken agro-based exports

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez has debunked anew the notion that the country’s participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will weaken the agriculture sector.

In a radio recent interview, Lopez said the RCEP can help Philippine agro-based exports and maximize their potential as they will become more competitive in other markets through the lowering of tariffs.

Contrary to the claims that Philippine agro-based exports are weak, the DTI chief said there are agricultural products in which the country is one of the top exporters in the world. These include banana, pineapple, coconut-based products, and tuna, among others.

Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data show that in March 2022, total exports of agro-based products rose 32.6% to US$571.12 million from US$430.82 million in March 2021.Its year-on-year exports revenue share also grew from 6.4% to  8%.

Through RCEP, the current 5% tariff on Philippine pineapple exports to China will be reduced to zero in 20 years. Tariffs on papaya and durian exports to South Korea will also be down to zero in 10 years from the current 24%, via RCEP.

“We have many sectors that are competitive,” Lopez said, adding that these sectors should be nurtured by improving the productivity of the agriculture sector, and the RCEP will also help attract investments that will hike agricultural production. 

He also said the country’s increasing imports is not due to an influx of agricultural products, but because of the rising demand for raw materials as part of the growing economy. With the reopening of the economy, Lopez said manufacturing activities have increased, which also include those products for exports.

“More than half, around 60 percent of imports are input to production,” he said adding he hopes for Senate concurrence with RCEP before the Duterte administration bows out.