The Philippines obtained improved tariff concessions for many of its export products to China, Japan and South Korea under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 Asean member states and five of Asean’s external partners, namely, Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.,
Allan Gepty, assistant secretary for international trade policy and trade negotiation of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), in a recent online forum, said small and medium enterprises should look at opportunities presented by the RCEP.
Gepty said there will be better tariff rates for Philippine products in China like preserved pineapples, pineapple juice, coconut juice, diesel oil, self-adhesive paper, and printed paper, among others.
In Japan, Gepty said good market access has been given for products like fish fillet, pineapple, coffee, canned salmon, chocolate, mixture of preserved fruits, prepared/preserved oyster and mussels, leather gloves, and footwear.
He added opportunities in the Korean market are open for several Filipino export products including dried/salted tilapia, cheddar cheese, fresh papaya, fresh durian, soya bean oil, canned tuna, and garments and bicycles.
To illustrate enhanced market access, Gepty said that preserved pineapple, currently being imposed a 5 percent tariff rate in China under the Asean-China FTA, will have zero tariff under RCEP.
Chocolates entering Japan are applied a 21.3 percent tariff rate under the Asean-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP) and the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (PJEPA). But this will be slashed to zero tariff under RCEP.
Pineapple juice has a 29.8 percent tariff rate under AJCEP and 7.5 percent under PJEPA, but will fall to zero tariff under the RCEP deal.
Gepty said in the South Korean market, fresh papaya and beer, for instance, will have zero tariff rate as compared to 24 percent and 15 percent currently imposed under the Asean-Korea FTA.
RCEP includes China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN): Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
RCEP provides some flexibility for less-developed members to implement the practical and legislative changes it requires.
Specifically which areas are open to tariff reductions under RCEP is complex and changes from country to country. Some states have listed what RCEP includes, others have listed what it does not.
For countries which already have free trade agreements with each other, an added benefit of RCEP is that it creates a common set of rules of origin, which will facilitate easier movement of goods between the 15 members.
RCEP is considered the world’s largest free trade agreement, covering nearly a third of the global population and about 30 percent of global gross domestic product.