PH censures Myanmar, rejects its ratification of RCEP free trade pact

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 18) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Philippines will reject Myanmar's instrument of ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), indicating Manila wants to censure and leave out the military-led government from the world's largest trade agreement that took effect this year.

The Philippines' stance appears similar to that of New Zealand's. The Associated Press on Thursday quoted two Asian diplomats as saying New Zealand notified other members of RCEP that it would not recognize Myanmar’s “instrument of ratification” because it opposes its military-led government.

"The Philippines will not accept Myanmar’s Instrument of Ratification (of RCEP)," Locsin said Thursday at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

However, he added that "if that stands in the way of my sister Indonesia and my brothers in ASEAN achieving consensus, I will not stand in the way and yield to their judgment."

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military overthrew the previous elected government in February 2020 and detained many top officials — including ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Junta chief and self-appointed Prime Minister Min Aung Hlaing ordered a brutal crackdown on anti-coup protests, which resulted in widespread reports of abuse, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

The DFA previously called for the "complete restoration" of Myanmar's democracy following the coup.

The 15-nation RCEP is touted to make it easier for member-states to import and export across the region. Aside from the Philippines, the other parties from the 10-member ASEAN are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Five non-ASEAN signatory states namely New Zealand, Australia, China, South Korea and Japan are also part of the free trade arrangement, which took effect in January.