MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has committed to sign an Asia-wide trade deal involving 15 countries by November.

In a statement Wednesday, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said trade ministers of the 10-member states of ASEAN and its free-trade partners Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand reaffirmed the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement in November this year.

“Together, let us send a strong signal that we continue to deepen our economic partnership despite the challenges and uncertainties in the global trade environment,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said during the 10th RCEP Intersessional Ministerial Meeting through video conference on Tuesday.

“RCEP remains crucial in restoring business confidence and maintaining a positive outlook in the region,” he added.

The regional trade deal includes Asia’s largest economies except for India which withdrew from the pact in November of last year with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying “that the current version of the Agreement does not satisfactorily address the concerns of India.”

Nonetheless, DTI noted that the ministers recognized India’s important role in progressing the region’s economic integration efforts and said they would welcome the said country back in RCEP.

It added that the conclusion of the RCEP gains more importance due to the need to strengthen and enhance economic cooperation in the region, as well as to mitigate disruptions and usher in post-recovery plans for the COVID-19 pandemic.

RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia and were initially set to wrap up in 2015.


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