Inquirer Net - 20 January 2022
Groups, mayors oppose RCEP trade agreement
By: Christia Marie Ramos
Over 60 groups of farmers, fishers, workers, civil society organizations and 186 mayors oppose the Senate’s concurrence to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement.
Among these groups include the Federation of Free Farmers, the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines, the United Broiler Raisers Association, and members of the League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities, Cities and Provinces of the Philippines, according to a briefer from Dr. Teodoro Mendoza.
Mendoza is a retired professor of the Institute of Crop Science at the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños.
According to the briefer, the groups and mayors held an online meeting last Jan. 17 and raised their opposition against the trade agreement.
The proposed Senate concurrence on the agreement is still being deliberated on the plenary floor. The Philippines, its Southeast Asian neighbors and their trading partners—China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand—signed the multilateral trade pact in 2020.
The 1987 Constitution requires concurrence by at least two-thirds of the 24-member Senate before any international agreement that the Philippines signs becomes binding.
“RCEP is an extreme form of trade liberalization where products will almost be traded tariff-free. For the Philippines, we are trading more than 1,700 products of which 75% will be traded tariff-free,” the groups said.
Further, they warned that China “will dominate RCEP participating countries.”
“Our trade deficit in China is big already and it will become bigger. It will weaken further our peso as the trade deficit grows. This shall increase the peso costs of debt servicing both the direct and hidden costs,” they pointed out.
RCEP aims to “achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement” among Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) member states and their free trade partners.
RCEP will cover trade in goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement, and other issues.
“Why go into RCEP when we have not implemented the measures that were supposed to prepare us and make us competitive under WTO (World Trade Organization)?” they also said.
“Farmers are not yet prepared. They need to prepare first. Some of the claims of RCEP proponents are untrue or misleading [or] misrepresentation. In plain language, they are lying,” the group asserted.
“RCEP is far worst than [the] WTO that we abhor already,” they added, according to the briefer.
They further argued that “assumptions” used by RCEP proponents, such as increased trade and investments, are supposedly “not based on realities or situations prevailing on-ground.”
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier said that RCEP would play a role in boosting equitable economic growth, including micro, small and medium enterprises, through the expansion of regional trade, services and investments linkages.
He said the benefits brought by RCEP to the country “far outweigh the cost of not joining.”
“The RCEP provides for a framework aimed at further lowering trade barriers, and securing improved market access for goods and services for businesses in the region characterized by a 2.3 billion USD potential consumer base, and a collective GDP that makes up almost 1/3 of the world’s GDP, global trade, and global inward foreign direct investments,” Lopez had said.