Asean partners to assess hits, misses of trade talks
Parties to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is expected to take stock on Monday of how far talks have gone after the rounds of negotiations earlier this year, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
In his opening remarks during the preparatory Asean Economic Ministers (AEM) meeting on Sunday morning, Lopez said discussions would focus on a “collective assessment paper,” which essentially pointed to hits and misses during the past trade talks.
The Philippines, which this year chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), is hosting the 31st Asean Summit and Related Meetings in which the country wants to announce a so-called substantial conclusion of the trade deal.
“I understand the assessment paper provides an inventory of measures [and] targets that can be completed this year, those that need to be further discussed, and those that require reconsideration of current mandates,” Lopez said.
Calling it “welcome progress,” he said the paper would give a comprehensive overview of what had been done in the past 20 rounds of negotiations, giving the stakeholders “a sense of direction of where to proceed and what to focus our attention on.”
He said the outcome of Monday’s meeting would lead to the RCEP Leaders Summit scheduled for Nov. 14.
Ten Asean member-states along with six free trade agreement (FTA) partners—Australia, New Zealand, India, Korea, Japan and China—are taking part in the talks, which would potentially create the world’s largest trade bloc.
The RCEP becomes increasingly more important after a comparatively large trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was deemed dead by many without US participation.
US President Donald Trump, whose leadership has raised fears of US protectionism, is also expected to attend the summit.
During the RCEP preparatory ministerial meeting on Sunday afternoon, Lopez said that chapters on custom procedures, trade facilitation and competition “are nearing completion.”
Some issues are being raised by some countries that prevent RCEP member states from reaching a consensus. —Roy Stephen C. Canivel
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