ASEAN economic ministers talk on free trade deal with Japan, RCEP
Southeast Asian economic ministers met on Sunday to discuss outstanding issues that need to be ironed out in their free trade agreement negotiations, particularly with Japan and on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
In his opening remarks at Preparatory Meeting of ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) for the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez noted "significant progress" has been achieved this year in moving the negotiations for the Protocol to Amend the ASEAN Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (AJCEP) and the RCEP.
"But there are still areas that need to be further deliberated and ironed out if we are to finally conclude the negotiations," he said in Marriott Hotel, Pasay City.
"In particular is the preparations for the Informal AEM-METI of Japan Consultations, which will take place later today. During our Consultations with Japan, we will discuss the only remaining issue to date that withholds the finalization of the Protocol on the AJCEP," he said.
AJCEP, signed in April 2008, aims at liberalizing and facilitating trade in goods between ASEAN and Japan and promoting cooperation in fields such as Information and Communications Technology, Intellectual Property, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Lopez said the economic ministers would also discuss the preparations for the Preparatory RCEP Ministerial Meeting.
"Discussions will focus on the Collective Assessment Paper to the Leaders and the Joint Leaders’ Statement on the RCEP," he said.
He said the Assessment Paper provides an inventory of measures or targets that can be completed this year, "those that need to be further discussed, and those that require reconsideration of current mandates."
The DTI chief said the paper gives a comprehensive overview of what has been achieved in the past 20 rounds of RCEP negotiations.
The outcomes of the economic ministers' meeting is expected to lead up to the RCEP Leaders Summit on November 14, he said.
Aside from the 10 ASEAN countries, namely, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, the six FTA partners participating in the RCEP negotiations are Australia, China, India, Japan New Zealand and South Korea.
The RCEP negotiation includes trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement, e-commerce, SMEs and other issues. Celerina Monte/DMS