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Trade dep’t views RCEP as beneficial to agriculture

REUTERS

THE agriculture industry will benefit from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement by providing opportunities to farmers, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

Trade Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty said RCEP offers enhanced market access, trade facilitation, consultation services for resolving trade issues, and more investment in research and development for the agricultural scienc-es and manufacturing.

“Our farmers and producers should view RCEP as an opportunity for them to have a stable access to cheaper farm inputs and implements such as fertilizer, pesticide and farm machinery,” Mr. Gepty said in a statement Thursday.

“They can also export their products to the RCEP region at a preferential and more trade facilitative arrangement, and in the process RCEP will encourage investment in food processing and even R&D… In sum, our agricultural sec-tor will reap these benefits while at the same time enjoying tariff protection on certain agricultural products,” he added.

RCEP involves Southeast Asian countries, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

Mr. Gepty said some agricultural products that are deemed politically sensitive in the Philippines are excluded from the schedule of commitments, which means that these products will remain protected by tariffs.

The protected products include pork, poultry meat, potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, sugar, carrots, and rice.

According to the DTI, 74% of the country’s imports of fertilizer are from RCEP partners like China, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam, and Japan, while 70% of imported insecticides are from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea.

It added that 78% of imported agricultural machinery is from Thailand, China, and Japan.

Mr. Gepty said RCEP provides more flexibility on trade, contrary to the allegations that it will restrict trade remedies.

Farmer groups and nongovernment organizations recently issued a statement declaring their opposition to RCEP due to the lack of consultation.

“RCEP parties can still avail of the safeguard measures provided for in the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement, thus, the RCEP transitional safeguard measure is in fact an additional trade remedy for the farmers. The RCEP Agreement even provides a mechanism to modify concessions should there be a need to do so,” Mr. Gepty said.

Mr. Gepty said the DTI is urging the Senate for its immediate concurrence to the RCEP agreement, which is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Currently, six ASEAN members — Brunei, Cambodia, Singapore, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam — and four ASEAN free trade partners — Australia, China, Japan, and New Zealand — have turned in their respective instruments of ratification.

“The size of the market alone and the extent of economic activities happening in the region demand that the country be part of this free trade area. This is not to mention that this is an ASEAN-led free trade agreement (FTA),” Mr. Gepty said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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