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Senate cements Philippines’ membership in RCEP trade deal

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Philstar Global - 22 February 2023

Senate cements Philippines’ membership in RCEP trade deal
The Senate on Tuesday night concurred with the ratification of the Philippines’ membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement or RCEP, the latest country in Southeast Asia to join the world’s largest free trade deal.

Twenty senators signed the resolution concurring in the ratification of RCEP. Under the Constitution, any treaty or international agreement requires the concurrence of at least two-thirds of the Senate for it to be valid.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros voted no to the resolution while Sen. Imee Marcos, the sister of the president, abstained from voting.

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. ratified RCEP in November last year and later submitted it to the Senate for concurrence. In his letter to senators, Marcos said he believes the Philippines stands to benefit from the China-backed free trade deal through enhanced market access and “stronger” protection of intellectual property rights, among others.

RCEP entered into force in January last year. That said, the Senate’s overwhelming concurrence made the Philippines the latest Southeast Asian member of the bloc, after neighbors Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam ratified the pact last year.

Other members of RCEP are Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and China.

The China-initiated RCEP is widely seen as an alternative to the US-led Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). What gave RCEP a big push was former US President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon TPP, the previous iteration of CPTPP, as he pursued an “America First” policy.

RCEP, which excludes the US, covers about 30% of both global GDP and world population.

The Senate’s move defied calls from various sectors to reject the deal which, they said, could hurt the local agriculture sector. For these groups, the country is ill-prepared to compete with its regional counterparts under RCEP.

 source: Philstar Global