Interview: Philippine columnist sees RCEP "dynamic catalyst for global economic progress" amid pandemic

MANILA, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) — The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) mega trade deal among 15 Asia-Pacific countries can be a “dynamic catalyst for global economic progress” amid the COVID-19 pandemic that brings economic activities to a near-standstill, a Philippine columnist said.

Wilson Lee Flores, a columnist for the English daily The Philippine Star, welcomed the signing of the RCEP agreement this weekend in Hanoi, Vietnam, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year.

Flores said the regional trade agreement has significant economic implications for Asia and beyond as the world gradually recovers from the coronavirus epidemic.

The conclusion of the RCEP “is big positive news in this time of unprecedented global economic slowdown and uncertainties,” he said.

“The RCEP shall speed up economic integration among its 15 members, and it shall become a dynamic catalyst for global economic progress,” Flores said in an interview with Xinhua.

Flores noted an important role that China, the world’s most populous nation and second biggest economy, will play in the RCEP bloc.

“With its active support for RCEP, China will further expand its economic and trade partnerships with member countries. It shall deepen its opening-up reforms and thus make greater contributions to the win-win prosperity of the whole Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

“The creation of RCEP shows the political will and consensus of the major Asia-Pacific economies in unequivocally upholding the principles of multilateralism, rules-based free trade and cooperation,” Flores added.

The columnist said the RCEP offers a heap of opportunities for his own country, with the opening up of the big export markets of RCEP members such as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

“Possible weak points for the Philippines is that we have the second largest population and consumer market in ASEAN, but our domestic industries and export companies are not yet globally competitive. So this is a challenge for the country to quickly modernize and be competitive,” Flores said.

Already, he said the Philippines and the private sector businesses in the country are looking forward to the many opportunities that the RCEP offers.

Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said earlier that the RCEP will have a huge economic impact on the Philippines, saying it will help create more jobs and enhance the participation of budding entrepreneurs in the global value chain.

“The momentous trade deal will have a major impact on jobs for the Filipino people and the enhanced participation of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the global value chain,” he said.

The RCEP is a mega trade pact proposed by ASEAN to boost trade among its member states and with its free trade agreement (FTA) partners. It includes the 10 ASEAN members, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the bloc’s five FTA partners of Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. Negotiations of the RCEP were formally launched in November 2012.

The RCEP currently accounts for about 30 percent of the global population, as well as nearly 30 percent of world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and global trade.

Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the RCEP will be a “game changer” for closer economic integration between China and ASEAN, saying the mega trade deal is crucial to the region’s collective efforts to seek a steady high growth and accelerate poverty reduction for its peoples.

Dominguez also noted that the RCEP will not only work for a greater synergy for China-ASEAN cooperation but will also ensure that the region continues to be a growth leader in the face of the protectionism on rise in the West, which threatens global prosperity.

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