The Philippines has ratified its membership of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world’s largest free trade agreement, sponsored by China and signed by 15 Asia-Pacific countries, which already covers more 30% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The Philippine Senate yesterday approved the country’s inclusion in RCEP by a large majority, an agreement that includes China and does not include the United States, and which significantly reduces tariff barriers for around 90% of goods. exchanged between member countries.
Economy Minister Arsenio Balicasan thanked the Senate for ratifying “a bold deal that will change the rules of the game” in a tweet posted after approval.
“Finally, the Philippine Senate has ratified RCEP, another tool for economic growth and including (the Philippines) in emerging Asia,” Balicasan added.
The Philippines is the latest country from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to ratify the trade deal.
The RCEP, which was agreed to by the leaders of 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region in November 2020, only entered into force on the 1st of the year 2022 -tras a decade of negotiations-, and included a third of the world population.
China presents itself as the main signatory of this mega-treaty, which is seen as an initiative born with the aim of countering the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP), currently composed of 11 countries and which at that time was led by the Joint States.
Currently, RCEP has 15 signatory countries: the ten ASEAN countries (Burma (Myanmar) -the only one that has not yet ratified it-, Brunei, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam), in addition to Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand.
The approval vote (20 votes for, one against and one abstention) included the abstention of Senator Imee Marcos, the sister of the president of the Asian nation, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who supported the inclusion of the Philippines in the agreement since coming to power.
Imee Marcos alluded to the lack of preparation of Filipino farmers, who may not be “ready for this deal”.
Philippine ratification of the treaty gives a boost to relations between Manila and Beijing, soured by territorial tensions in the South China Sea and Marcos Jr.’s rapprochement with the United States, breaking the more pro-Chinese line of his predecessor. , Rodrigo Duterte.