"Realistic targets" being finalized in RCEP negotiations: Philippine official
Southeast Asian countries and six other dialogue partners were finalizing "key elements" to achieve substantial conclusion for the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations, a Philippine official said on Sunday.
According to Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo, the RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee chairperson has prepared recommendations which the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations and six dialogue partners' economic ministers were discussing during the 5th RCEP Ministerial Meeting Sunday afternoon.
Six other dialogue partners pushing for RCEP are Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
"(T)he Ministers will finalize the 'RCEP Key Elements for Significant Outcomes by End of 2017,' which clearly outlines the negotiating areas viewed as realistically achievable by end of the year," Rodolfo said in the press briefing at the sidelines of the 49the ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting and Related Meetings.
"One of the most important (recommendations) is towards endorsing, adopting the key elements paper that would serve as a document that would clearly set the way forward on the realistic targets as we move towards the end of 2017," he said.
Reaching "substantive conclusion" in RCEP negotiations is one of the 11 "deliverables" that the Philippines has been aspiring for during its ASEAN chairmanship.
The two main categories of the key elements paper were in terms of market access and of rules, Rodolfo said.
On the market access, he said the countries would want to make sure their commercial interest are reflected in the respective offers of the different partners.
For the rules side, he said this would include having a clear understanding on where each country stands and what is doable and not doable.
Rodolfo stressed the importance of concluding the RCEP negotiations soon.
"(A)t this critical juncture where there is a general slowdown in growth across the world and rising protectionist mindset, it is important for RCEP to step up and set the example for the pursuit of freer trade," Rodolfo said.
"RCEP is the only game in town given the current negotiations of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership)," he added.
For the Philippines, he said RCEP remains an important engagement as about 61 percent of the country's total trade is centered on the 15 RCEP participating countries, with about 52 percent of exports going into these countries.
"Achieving a single set of rules to do business with member countries will significantly facilitate the conduct of business and spur growth of our industries," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS