Brunei Too In Historic Free-Trade Agreement
By M K Anwar
5 June 2005
Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei Darussalam together with Chile, New Zealand and Singapore are now the founding members of the first ever Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement.
The announcement of the successful negotiations for the Trans-Pacific SEP was made yesterday in Jeju Island, Republic of Korea.
Present at a joint press conference to announce the new, agreement was Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Also present were Mr Ignacio Walker, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, Hon. Jim Sutton, New Zealand Minister for Trade negotiations, and Mr Li Hug Kiang, Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry.
With the new agreement, it signaled the beginning of a partnership that bridges Latin America, the Pacific and Asia, officials said.
The ministers have stated that the Trans-Pacific SEP will bring in strategic benefits to all four members and help advance the shared objectives in APEC and WTO.
The Trans-Pacific SEP was formally known as the Pacific Three Closer Economic Partnership (P3-CEP) with its negotiations first launched at the APEC Leaders Summit in Los Cobos, Mexico in 2002 by the Chilean President and Prime Ministers of Singapore and New Zealand.
Brunei according to wire services reports for the first time took part in the fifth round of talk in April this year as a full negotiating party.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Brunei has already attended several rounds of the talks previously.
Several seniors including those at the technical level from different government ministries represented Brunei at the negotiation round.
In the Joint Press Statement yesterday, ministers from Chile, New Zealand and Singapore yesterday have formally accepted Brunei as a founding member of the agreement, on terms that allow Brunei to progressively implement some of its commitments over the next two years.
The ministers have also announced that the parallel negotiations on an Environment Cooperation Agreement and Labour Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding have been concluded also.
These agreements, the ministers said will establish the mechanisms for ongoing cooperation and dialogue on labour and environmental issues.
It was stated that the outcome of the negotiations have delivered a comprehensive agreement on trade in goods where more than 90 percent of the total trade among the four parties will be duty free. Trade facilitation will be aimed at reducing transaction costs.
A liberalising framework will be put into effect that will encourage trade in services among the four countries.
The negotiations have also put a commitment from the parties to ensure that companies from other parties of the Trans-Pacific SEP are able to compete on an equal footing with domestic suppliers for government procurement contracts.
There will be more cooperation between the four parties on competition and intellectual property rights and also collaboration in strategic areas such as research and development.
Ministers will recommend the results of the negotiations to their respective government for signature. The partnership agreement is expected to enter into force on January 1, 2006 pending each country’s respective domestic process.
Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna on Thursday attended the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Retreat: Session at the Jeju International Convention Centre.
Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, Director General of the WTO, briefed the morning session meeting on the latest development in the WTO Doha Development Agenda negotiations. HRH Princess Hajah Masna thanked Dr Supachai on his efforts over the past three years in advancing the Doha Development Agenda.
In the afternoon session, the APEC Mid-Term StockTake process of the Bogor Goals of freer and more open trade in the Asia-Pacific region by 202.0 were discussed. Ministers heard a report on the recommendation by the recently concluded Mid-Terns Stock-Take Symposium.
HRH Princess Hajah Masna in the evening attended a Gala Dinner hosted by Mr Hyun Chong Kim, Minister of Trade of the Republic of Korea. — Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin