New DTI chief Pascual to push for 'immediate ratification' of RCEP, other trade deals

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 1) — The Department of Trade and Industry will continue efforts to get the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ratified under the leadership of its new secretary Alfredo Pascual.

"We will continue to push for the immediate ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP and other trade agreements because as you may know, the Philippines has the least number among the ASEAN countries that have signed FTAs (free trade agreements) with other countries," said Pascual during the turnover ceremony of DTI's secretaryship, which was held Thursday but only aired Friday.

The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are part of the RCEP, which is seen to make importation and exportation easier for member-states. China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand are also part of the agreement.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte ratified the RCEP in September 2021, but it failed to hurdle the Senate in the 18th Congress.

Meanwhile, then-incoming President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said the Philippines must make its agriculture sector competitive first before joining the regional partnership. Marcos eventually announced he will lead the Department of Agriculture for the meantime.

"These agreements will diversify the country's exports in terms of products and services and country destinations, and enhance the country's attractiveness to foreign investments," said Pascual.

Also on the top of the Trade chief's priorities is supporting the country's micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which have been heavily hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We want to integrate them into the domestic and global value chains," said Pascual, emphasizing the importance of science, technology and innovation for small businesses.

He will also continue to promote the country's manufacturing industry, focusing on key sectors like electronics, aerospace, information technology and business process management, and "critical" minerals like copper, nickel, and cobalt.

Pascual likewise said he will prioritize improving the ease of doing business in the Philippines by pursuing the reduction of regulatory burdens and accelerating the fulfillment of e-government in the Philippines, among others.