RCEP ministers celebrate progress

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 09:00

Trade ministers of 16 countries from the Asia Pacific region stand for a group photo during the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ministerial meeting in Ha Noi. — Photo globalnation.inquirer.net

At the third Intersessional Ministerial Meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) held on Monday in Ha Noi, participants discussed issues such as goods, services, investments and rules in RCEP negotiations, in hope of finalising the agreement by the end of the year.

Senior officials and trade representatives from 16 RCEP members voiced their unanimous agreement on the RCEP’s potential of bridging economies, creating favourable conditions for interregional goods and facilitating service trade flows.

Delivering the opening speech at the meeting, Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh affirmed that despite growing trade protectionism, free trade is possible on the basis of the comprehensive balance between the RCEP’s negotiated areas of interest.

“In the context that protectionism is emerging in a number of major economies in the world, we believe that the conclusion of the RCEP agreement negotiation will convey a clear and consistent message of the opening and economic integration enhancing policy of the countries in the region,” said Tuan Anh.

Ministers attending the meeting considered the RCEP conclusion to be a concrete and defining achievement for open trade policies and economic integration progress of regional countries, which ultimately will help increase the investment attractiveness of RCEP nations.

This trade pact will allow for the construction of a comprehensive, multilevel connectivity mechanism that will bring more tangible benefits to regional enterprises, especially micro, small and medium sized companies that account for more than 90 per cent of firms in the region.

In accordance with Tuan Anh, China’s Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan told Xinhua that his government has proposed to support ASEAN countries’ efforts to expand the RCEP consensus, while working together to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible with respect to the demands of all parties.

However, questions were still raised regarding the difference in level of economic development amongst member countries, which require practical and flexible approaches such as concurrent bilateral trade negotiations between countries. This should help RCEP members to commit to opening their own markets without being compromised by foreign competition.

Officials suggested they all work together, focusing on issues such as tariff reduction, service coverage, the digital economy and freedom of movement, as flexibility and gradualism are the selling points of the RCEP.

After the US announced its withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, the RCEP talks, which began in 2012, have been given new motivation to push through toward the common goal of regional economies building a powerfully connected Asia Pacific.

It expects to create a free trade area of more than 3.5 billion people, bringing together 10 members of ASEAN and their partners, including Japan, South Korea, China, India, Australia and New Zealand. — VNS

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