Business Today - 8 September 2019
RCEP meet: ASEAN members, partners reaffirm their resolve to conclude free trade deal talks
By Joe C Mathew
The 7th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ministerial meeting of the 10 members of ASEAN countries and their six FTA (free trade agreement) partners, including India, said the ongoing global uncertainties have added to the urgency to conclude the mega free trade agreement between these nations. The joint statement issued after the meeting, which reviewed the RCEP negotiations on September 8 in Bangkok, Thailand, said the 16 negotiating partners agreed that they should not lose the long-term vision of deepening and expanding the value chains in the RCEP.
The RCEP underscored issues raised by India by stating that certain developments in the global trade environment might affect the negotiating countries’ individual positions. "The ministers underscored the RCEP will provide the much-needed stability and certainty to the market, which will in turn boost trade and investment in the region. To this end, ministers reaffirmed their collective resolve to bring negotiations to a conclusion," the joint statement said.
"The ministers recognised that negotiations have reached a critical milestone. Notwithstanding the remaining challenges in the negotiations, the RCEP participating countries are working on addressing outstanding issues that are fundamental to conclude the agreement this year as mandated by the leaders," it stated. The meeting, held to review developments in the RCEP negotiations since the ministers last met in Beijing on August 2-3, was chaired by Jurin Laksanawisit, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce of Thailand.
The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between 10 ASEAN members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam), and its six partners (China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand).
Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s economic wing, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, has asked the Centre not to sacrifice the interests of key industries like agriculture, diary and manufacturing. "We firmly believe that national interests especially of agriculture, dairy, manufacturing will not be sacrificed at RCEP Meet. #SayNoToRCEP & Renegotiate ASEAN FTA, which is imperative for protecting agriculture & mfg," SJM Co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan tweeted.