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More business groups call for RCEP passage

/ 05:24 AM January 22, 2022

Four more business groups have joined the growing clamor for the Senate to approve the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and make the Philippines part of the world’s largest trade bloc.

But at the same time, the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations emphasized that joining the global trade bloc should be accompanied by an increase in the budget of the agriculture sector so that the local farmers would not be sidelined.

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“We see our membership in RCEP as an important challenge to our government to step up genuine and meaningful support for Filipino producers, especially in the agriculture sector, which is the backbone of the Philippine economy,” the business groups said in a joint statement.

Together, the RCEP countries account for around 30 percent of the global economy. The deal took effect on Jan. 1, although a few countries have not ratified it yet, including the Philippines.

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The Philippines signed the RCEP in November 2020 with the rest of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) along with Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, and China. It used to include India, until the latter opted out of the negotiations.

Under the Philippine Constitution, no treaty or international agreement will be valid and effective unless concurred by at least two-thirds of the Senate.

In this case, the Senate had not yet approved the RCEP, after agricultural groups feared how this might hurt the vital sector.

“We, therefore, urge the government to provide a substantial increase in the agriculture budget commensurate to that provided in our comparable Asean neighbors, as we urge our Senators to ratify the RCEP Agreement without delay,” the business groups said.

Like other free trade agreements, the groups said RCEP comes with both economic opportunities and threats for uncompetitive industries and their workers.

Nevertheless, the benefits of being part of the bloc were still expected to outweigh the costs.

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TAGS: business groups, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
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