THE Philippines has signed an agreement to strengthen regional supply chains under the United States-backed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said on Wednesday.
In a virtual briefing, Pascual told reporters that the deal was inked during a November 14 to 15 ministerial meeting in San Francisco, California.
“What has been concluded already is the second pillar [of the IPEF]… and today, we signed the IPEF supply chain agreement which we substantially concluded in May this year,” he said.
“In general, the idea behind the supply chain pillar … is where the partners commit to resilient, robust, diverse and well-integrated supply chains through measures built on the principles of cooperation, crisis response and mitigation,” Pascual added
Supply chain resilience is one of the four so-called pillars of the IPEF initiative, the others being fair and resilient trade; infrastructure, clean energy and decarbonization (a clean economy); and tax and anti-corruption (a fair economy).
The IPEF, launched in May last year by US President Joe Biden, has been described as an effort to counter China’s influence in the region.
It currently has 14 members — the US, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — with an open invitation for others to join.
The initiative has been compared to the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade deal comprising 15 members including the Philippines, which joined earlier this year.
The US, India and Fiji are not members of the RCEP while China and Asean’s Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos are not part of the IPEF.
Under the IPEF supply chain deal, signatory countries committed to collaborate and take action to strengthen supply chains; promote regulatory transparency; enhance the role of workers; establish a Supply Chain Council, supply chain crisis response network and a Labor Rights Advisory Board; address facility-specific labor rights inconsistencies; identify critical sectors or key goods; monitoring and addressing supply chain vulnerabilities; and responding to supply chain disruptions.
Pascual said the “idea is to have a way of working together to address the disruptions brought about by the extraordinary events.”
“This agreement makes available technical cooperation, which I think is important for us,” he added, “and capacity building and economic collaboration to increase investments in critical sectors and key goods and related essential services …”
The next step, Pascual said, “will require us to focus on the implementation and arriving at the actual commitments for collaboration.”