RCEP seen boosting China-Philippines trade



The expected implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement will generate fresh momentum for China and the Philippines to boost bilateral trade in both goods and services in the coming years, said senior Philippine diplomats in China on Thursday.

With China and its partners pushing for the implementation of the RCEP agreement from next year, the free trade deal will not only help the Philippines to export more minerals, and agricultural and manufactured products to China, but stimulate the growth of trade in services to enrich bilateral business ties, said Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana.

The RCEP is a comprehensive trade and investment agreement of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its five free trade agreement partners-Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. The deal was concluded in November last year.

Speaking before a meeting during the 21st China International Fair for Investment and Trade, which opened on Wednesday in Xiamen, Fujian province, and will close on Saturday, Sta. Romana said the RCEP agreement at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and global uncertainties signals renewed faith in a rule-based system for trade and investment in the region.

In addition to boosting cross-border trade, the RCEP will feature a commitment to opening up trade in services involving more than 100 sectors, including finance, telecommunications, transportation, tourism and scientific innovation, said Sta. Romana.

He also stressed the tangible growth of the Belt and Road Initiative, together with the Philippine government's Build, Build, Build-BBB-program, will improve the road networks and other infrastructure facilities in the Philippines, and enhance regional connectivity within and among other partner nations to move toward a better future.

BBB is a large-scale infrastructure program for transportation-roads, bridges, airports, seaports, flood management, water resources, energy, communications and solid waste management. The Philippine government has allocated $91.4 billion so far to fund 142 infrastructure projects.

Glenn G. Penaranda, commercial counselor of the Philippine embassy in China, said the Southeast Asian country will enhance the cooperation in fields like IT and software, healthcare management and contact centers with China under the RCEP framework.

For example, the scale of China's multitiered eldercare services will be huge. With the elderly population exceeding 260 million, the country will need international expertise in the development of eldercare products and services as well as the operation and management of commercial insurance, he said.

"As many Chinese companies pursue 'going out' strategies, we can be a partner while providing support through Philippine talent as a strategic resource," said Penaranda, adding the strong customer service orientation of the nation's workforce makes the Philippines an ideal location for setting up global customer service facilities.

With China being the Philippines' biggest trading partner, largest export market, and foremost import supplier last year, the trade volume between the two countries soared 31.5 percent year-on-year to 335.98 billion yuan ($52.01 billion) in the first eight months of this year, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

With China delivering greater openness and extending efforts to promote free trade and international cooperation, Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao said the government will continue to remove market access barriers for foreign investment, reinforce the protection of foreign investment, provide all-round services for investors from all countries, and continue to create a market-oriented, legalized and world-class business environment.