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DTI hopes that the RCEP will be approved by Congress next year.

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines will not be able to realize the benefits of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) unless the Senate agrees to it (FTA).

Ramon Lopez, Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), told reporters on Thursday that he remains hopeful that the new Congress will authorize the country’s participation in the RCEP as soon as possible.

“I can only hope for ratification in the next Congress as soon as possible.” “This is something we’ll leave to the future government and Congress,” Lopez added.

He claimed that the new administration is prioritizing ratification of the RCEP and has received backing from the future economic team.

Lopez stressed the Philippines’ need to join the FTA in order to expand their market, attract more foreign investors, and enhance their human resources.

“As I previously stated, any delay in ratification means we risk losing some export markets and good investment prospects as they migrate to participating countries that are already part of the RCEP system,” he added.

Foreign investors are also interested in the country’s involvement in RCEP, according to Lopez, because trade agreements allow them to source a greater range of zero- to low-tariff raw materials and access to a larger market for their exports.

“There may be lost chances in investments and jobs for our people,” he said, citing agribusiness, export manufacturing, and services as examples.

After eight years of discussions, the RCEP was signed by 15 member nations in 2020.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its free trade partners — China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand — came up with the idea for the FTA.

A participant country can start reaping the benefits of the RCEP 60 days after depositing its ratification instrument.

In the Philippines, the President must ratify the RCEP, which must also be approved by the Senate.

In September 2021, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the RCEP.

The Senate began hearings on RCEP approval last year, but it was not adopted until the 18th Congress adjourned on Friday.

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