While one country is ambivalent in joining the world’s biggest trade pact, 15 countries resolved to seize opportunities that the free trade region will create.

During the 3rd Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Leaders’ Summit on 4 November, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that it is not possible for India to join RCEP noting its unresolved issues and concerns. The 15 other country leaders, however, expressed optimism that a free trade region will not only enhance economic integration but will create more opportunities for businesses and investors.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad emphasized that “ASEAN is rich with natural resources and has a huge population with increasing purchasing power. Therefore, there are many commercial opportunities for international trade and investments.”

For his part, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez stated that the Philippines stands to gain from the free trade pact as there will be a wider cumulation to source materials, and export products at a preferential rate in bigger markets while at the same time encouraging investments in manufacturing, energy, and technology-based industries.

“The Philippines, inherently, is in a strategic location in the region, and it can be the formidable link of various economies and continents in the world, from east to west, from the northern and southern Americas, and into the Asian countries and vice versa,” Lopez added.

RCEP leaders recognize the importance of a stable, predictable, and transparent business environment; and a trade agreement provides the framework by which economies vow to make good this environment.

Under the administration of President Duterte, various reforms and policies have been implemented to leapfrog the country to a higher level of economic development, which is more inclusive and sustainable. RCEP is viewed by economists to complement these reforms.♦

Philippine Department of Trade & Industry | November 2019

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