‘Regional trade pacts more beneficial to Philippines’

20-Dec-2016 Intellasia | Business Mirror | 6:00 AM Print This Post

AFTER President Duterte thumbed down the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the Philippines will rely more on Asean and the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) for trade and investments.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said over the weekend that the Asean market and the proposed regional trade pact stand to provide the Philippines a “bigger advantage”.

“The government wants to build on what we have in the region, the Asean and the RCEP, which are more beneficial for us. The RCEP accounts for more than 50 percent of our trade,” Lopez told the BusinessMirror. Lopez made the statement after President Duterte rejected the TPP, saying the trade pact could restrict Filipinos’ access to affordable medicine.

“I am glad that [President-elect Donald] Trump said he will throw in the garbage can the TPP. This will create a lot of problems for us here in Asia,” Duterte said during his pre-departure news briefing last week.

“This is because we are promoting generics. The Philippines is a poor nation and we can buy the medicines at cost in India and Pakistan, yet if you’re a member of the TPP you still have to go to the branded ones from multinational corporations, which are very expensive,” he added.

This concern was already raised by the DTI in 2014, when the previous administration had proclaimed its interest to join the US-led TPP.

In a previous interview, Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said there are provisions in the TPP agreement which allow the patenting of new processes in product-making, including medicine.

These provisions contrast those in the Philippine Intellectual Property Code, which prevent the same processes from being patented for the purpose of promoting new drugs and making these accessible to the poor. Asked if the Philippines is completely ruling out membership in the TPP, Lopez said, “It’s not yet ratified by the US, let’s be silent on that.”

The TPP has been a bone of contention in the recent US Presidential elections, with both President-elect Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton expressing aversion to the trade deal.

The trade agreement has yet to be ratified by the US Congress.

The Aquino administration had expressed full support for joining the TPP, saying the trade pact would expand the Philippines’s access to the markets of its 12-member bloc, which accounts for 30 percent of global trade.

A study conducted under the United States Agency for International Development TRADE Project noted that TPP countries account for 41 percent of Philippine total trade in 2014.

The Philippines is currently negotiating with other Asean countries for the RCEP. Lopez said options have been “narrowed” in terms of a common set services and goods to be included in the trade pact when Asean Trade ministers met to discuss RCEP in November.



Category: Philippines

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