The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it could make a “definite” decision on joining the 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in two years, as it started reviewing independent studies on the pros and cons of joining the trade bloc.
But, until then, Trade Secretary Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. said, the DTI will continue to conduct a series of consultations with TPP members to determine if the trade pact will be beneficial to the Philippines.
Cristobal said Manila has conducted technical consultations with Malaysia, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and Canada last year. The DTI is set to meet with remaining members of the TPP this year.
To complement bilateral technical consultations, various government agencies are conducting their own internal studies to determine if the Philippines will benefit from the trade pact, whose members account for 40 percent of the global economy.
The Tariff Commission is among the agencies now initiating an internal study, Tariff Commission Director Ma. Lourdes M. Saluta said in an earlier interview. While the text of the TPP has been released in January, the road to the agreement’s entry into force is not foreseen in the immediate future, particularly for countries seeking membership in it.
“All these 12 [countries] need to go through their own domestic processes: the US still has to pass it through its Congress before it enters into force, so it’s another year-and-a-half to two years. By that time, definitely, we should have a decision if we are joining or not,” Cristobal said.
An accession protocol for new members will also have to be drawn up, and the Philippines will still need to undergo bilateral discussions with each of the 12 members in negotiating the schedule of tariff reductions, should it decide to join the agreement.
While the commitments, which may entail review of the Philippines’s foreign-equity restrictions are tough, the risks in not joining are substantial: the country is in danger of losing its market share to its two largest trading partners, the US and Japan, given that its close competitors (Malaysia and Vietnam) are already included in the TPP.
“In fact, now, there are garment makers already making decisions in the US that since Vietnam is with TPP, they may go out of the Philippines to transfer,” Cristobal noted.
Source: Business Mirror