It would be a “suicide plan” for the Philippines to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-led mega trade deal Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (RCEP) without having any strong local industry, a lawmaker warned on Friday.
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said the RCEP would kill local industries as cheaper imports from other countries would flood the country’s market.
“Without any strong local industry capable of competing in the global arena, we are at the losing end of Asean’s [RCEP]. The country is a mouse trapped in a boa’s den,” Brosas said in a statement.
“Without any industry, promotion and support to RCEP is a suicide plan,” she added.
The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the members of the Asean member states and its six trading partners, namely: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
It aims to promote trade and investment liberalization, intellectual property rights, services and competition policy. It is viewed as an alternative to the United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership without India and China.
The RCEP negotiations started in 2012 and expected to end this year.
President Rodrigo Duterte in August endorsed the RCEP, which critics claim would only promote liberalism and free market and allow businesses to influence ability to regulate corporations.
“With the death of small industries caused by globalization, we will be pushed to merely import cheap labor and manpower until we have nothing left in our own backyard,” Brosas said.
“We will be dependent and subservient to those who are capable of producing,” she added.
Dying shoe industry
The lawmaker cited the dying shoe industry in Marikina, which has been greatly affected due to influx of imported goods.
“Mothers and their families depending on said industry are now working double or triple hard to sustain their livelihood. Just imagine how many more small and local industries will die in the coming years due to RCEP,” she said.
Brosas also slammed Duterte, who batted support for globalization while calling for “inclusive growth” during his speech before the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam on Thursday.
She said she agrees with Duterte that globalization is “the force pushing countries in opposite directions, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. That is what globalization and free trade and liberal market has been doing to the country.”
However, Brosas said “there is no potential inclusive growth in globalization, free market and liberalized trade.”
“It will forever soar at the expense of the marginalized and is always prone to abuse. This is supported by an [International Monetary Fund] report in 2015 stating that ‘capital liberalization reforms increase inequality,” she added.
The first-ever RCEP summit is set to be held on Tuesday during the East Asia Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center.