The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has entered into force in the Philippines on 2 June 2023 and is expected to deepen existing economic integration within the broader region and attract more investments and trade opportunities to country.
The RCEP is a regional free trade agreement that brought together the ten (10) Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (FTA) and its trade agreement partners (Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea). The huge bloc covers about 30% of the world’s gross domestic product and one-third of total inward foreign direct investments as of 2022. The Agreement covers trade in goods; trade in services; rules of origin; sanitary and phytosanitary measures; standards, technical regulations, and conformity assessment procedures; trade remedies, electronic commerce, small and medium enterprises, and other issues.
The RCEP offers opportunities in trade and investment for the Philippines and serves as a catalyst that will stimulate further collaborations among businesses. Among the country’s benefits in joining the RCEP include expansion of the Philippines’ market access to goods and services, create more and better jobs, support MSME development and drive participation in the global value chain, and lower or zero import tariffs for products that will enter the shores of its free partners.
"As RCEP takes effect, we commit to supporting Philippine businesses in becoming more productive and competitive within the region and globally. RCEP is a mega free trade deal that will also facilitate the influx of more investments in the country," DTI Secretary Pascual said during the DTI press briefing held on 2 June 2023, where he discussed the benefits of the Agreement for various sectors and industries.
“Becoming part of RCEP signals to the community of nations that the Philippines remains adherent to the rules-based trading system. Through this regional FTA, we re-commit to collaborative efforts that ensure global trade stays open, efficient, and resilient to potential disruptions," Secretary Pascual added.
The DTI-Bureau of Philippine Standards (DTI-BPS) is the Philippines’ lead negotiator for the Standards, Technical Regulations, and Conformity Assessment Procedures (STRACAP) Chapter. The STRACAP Chapter aims to enhance the implementation of the World Trade Organization – Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO-TBT) Agreement, promote mutual understanding of each Party’s STRACAP, and strengthen information exchange and cooperation. The STRACAP Chapter also emphasizes the need for cooperation, designation of contact points, and technical discussions to resolve implementation issues related to the implementation of the STRACAP Chapter.
Along with other non-tariff measures, STRACAP, if not governed by rules of the TBT Agreement will erode the benefits of enhanced market access. Building on the WTO-TBT Agreement, the STRACAP Chapter provides the framework in ensuring that STRACAP measures will not pose unnecessary obstacles to international trade.
This is relevant for Filipino exporters as they have a more predictable access to foreign markets of interests for their products. This is also important to consumers by ensuring that STRACAP do not add unnecessary costs to internationally traded products as well as these products are compliant to relevant rules and regulations.
This Chapter also ensures consumer protection as it deals with product compliance to health, safety and quality parameters set forth in different standards and technical regulations including marking and labelling requirements.
DTI-BPS’ Director highlighted that as the Philippines’ National Notification Authority (NNA) and National Enquiry Point (NEP) under the WTO-TBT Agreement and as focal point for RCEP Chapter on STRACAP, the DTI-BPS is fully committed to implement the Chapter and is ready to assist businesses for concerns related to TBT.