ASEAN, partners step up efforts to conclude economic negotiations

MANILA The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday said economic ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its free trade partners are eager to fulfill the ASEAN Leaders' Instruction in 2017 to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez represented the country during its 4th intersessional ministerial meeting, held alongside the 24th ASEAN Economic Ministers Retreat and the 16th ASEAN Economic Ministers- European Union Trade Commissioner Consultations in Singapore from February 28 to March 3.

The RCEP Intersessional Ministerial Meeting held on March 3, noted the progress made since the Preparatory RCEP Ministerial Meeting for the 1st RCEP Summit on November 12, 2017 in Manila.

"The ministers reaffirmed their resolve to meet the Leaders' instruction to intensify efforts in 2018 towards its conclusion and welcomed progress made in the discussion on the tariff modality and its parameters," DFA said in a statement.

On services, the ministers had instructed negotiators to continue resolving outstanding issues and improving offers across all modes of supply, while working together to address specific sensitivities faced by the 16 RCEP Participating Countries (RPCs).

The RCEP negotiations were conducted by leaders from 10 ASEAN member states, namely, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam, and six ASEAN partners Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand in November 2012.

DFA said the ministers are committed to expedite negotiations on rules, geared towards facilitating trade and investment in support of the expansion and deepening of regional value chains.

"They underscored the immense potentials of an RCEP agreement to not only enhance economic growth, provide more jobs and improve the livelihood of people in the RCEP region, but also contribute significantly to the growth of global trade," it added.

RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, then known as the TPP.

If approved, the trade deal will cover almost half of the world's population, representing over 30 percent of the global economy, and nearly 30 percent of global trade.

RCEP's main objective is to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement among the ASEAN member states and its free trade partners.

Source: Philippine News Agency