THE British Chamber of Commerce Philippines (BCCP) said the United Kingdom is keen on the Philippines joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) because they want to engage with the trade bloc.

In a televised interview on Monday, British Chamber of Commerce Philippines Executive Director Chris Nelson noted that although UK is not part of the trade bloc, its government is “looking at trade agreements around the world” and wants to “have some link with RCEP,” stating that “obviously it would like to see the Philippines there.”

RCEP is a free trade agreement among Asean countries and their trading partners Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, representing 30 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) or $26.2 trillion.

Nelson said that “RCEP is actually a great opportunity, it’s going to be the largest free trade market.” With this, he said, “this is something we strongly believe the Philippines needs to do, all the chambers.”

In a news statement last month, seven other foreign chambers urged the 18th Senate to ratify the regional trade deal, pointing out that many of its members invested in the Philippines because of the expanding access they can enjoy under trade agreements which the Philippines has with its Asean and regional neighbors and other countries.

However, the 18th Senate adjourned on June 2 sine die without putting the treaty to a vote.

Still, the BCCP chairman said, “Obviously what we’re hoping is that with the new Congress, the new Senate, there will be a lot more time to discuss it and the Philippines will ratify and join RCEP.”

On the local industry’s potentially losing its capacity to compete, the BCCP Executive Director said that “Yes, we have to support local industry but we have to see RCEP as an opportunity and one that we must seize.”

Meanwhile, on the issue of UK being keen on the Philippines and other Asean countries’ membership to the regional trade pact, Nelson, on behalf of the United Kingdom, said the UK sees Asean as “very important” and sees the Philippines and other countries in the region as “the gateway for companies.”

In fact, the 2021-2022 Investing in Asean Report backs this claim, noting that Asean continues to be UK’s second largest export destination in Asia.

The report shows Asean provides enormous opportunities for UK companies. Specifically, it noted, “UK-Asean trade is worth nearly £42 billion with real potential for further growth.”

“There is phenomenal support for UK businesses looking to expand across the Asean region. Britain in Southeast Asia (BiSEA) is a grouping  of British Chambers of Commerce across the Southeast Asia region in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam,” the report added


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