Business Times - 05 March 2019
Asia-Pacific megadeal: monthly targets put in place for RCEP trade to close this year
Key partners and ASEAN commerce ministers have agreed on a set of monthly targets that should help quicken the process of reaching an agreement on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal before the end of this year.
According to the Straits Times, Singaporean Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing provided the House with an update regarding the recently wrapped up Asia-Pacific talks in Cambodia. The meeting was attended by other ministers from China, India, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.
During his speech, Chan highlighted the importance of the RCEP deal in today’s economy. "In a world where we see the rise of protectionism, unilateral moves by various countries, trade protectionism and so forth, I think many in South-east Asia, in the rest of Asia, see the urgency to try to conclude this," he explained.
Chan further noted that the Asia-Pacific megadeal is not just for participating countries to achieve benefits. Instead, the RCEP deal is also the first step towards showing other nations that countries involved have a clear understanding of greater collaboration.
While the deal’s resolution may be delayed due to elections in four countries under the RCEP deal, ministers are eager to settle as many problems and loopholes as possible by the end of June 2019.
The next meeting is scheduled for August in China and is expected to build a significant milestone in accomplishing all procedures within the deal. The said session will determine whether all 16 countries involved are keen on sealing the agreement.
Saturday’s session in Cambodia was led by Thailand’s Acting Minister of Commerce, Chutima Bunyapraphasara. Other ministers joined the Thai acting commerce chief in discussing developments since the previous summit in November last year.
According to SME Times, a joint statement was released shortly by the group of ministers who participated in the RCEP meeting. The statement said all parties agreed that the deal is mutually beneficial for participating countries and should be concluded before 2020.
The ministers also said ensuring that all areas of the deal are amicable is the collective responsibility of each country as further engagements are expected to intensify in the coming months.
As previously reported, Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said the deal’s conclusion this year would send a message to the world that economies still desire "multilateral free trade frameworks."
Saturday’s summit resulted in only seven of the proposal’s 18 chapters getting approval from ministers but analysts have high hopes of progress for the sessions that will be held in China by mid-2019.