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RCEP ministers redouble efforts to conclude RCEP talks
BY 2017-09-11 08:49:46

MANILA, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Economic ministers from countries of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) met on Sunday to move forward their talks to establish the proposed regional trade pact.

Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement that the ministers are "hard at work to resolve the key outstanding issues" that are slowing down the negotiations and seek options that provide flexibilities to move the RCEP talks forward.

"The ministers will finalize the RCEP key elements for significant outcomes by end 2017, which clearly outlines the negotiating areas viewed as realistically achievable by end of the year," Lopez said.

At the opening of the ASEAN Economic Ministers' (AEM) meeting on Thursday, Lopez urged the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the bloc's dialogue partners to expedite talks on the RCEP, saying the proposed pact will "tremendously" benefit Southeast Asia.

Lopez said "the substantial conclusion" of the RCEP negotiations remains high on ASEAN's overall economic agenda. "It is a priority deliverable for the Philippines' chairmanship of ASEAN 2017 and in time for the 50th anniversary of ASEAN," he said.

Lopez stressed the need to finalize the key elements before the 20th RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) negotiations in South Korea next month as well as the ASEAN Leaders' meeting in Manila in November.

Philippine Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said Sunday's RCEP talks is significant.

"With the fifth RCEP ministerial meeting to continue this afternoon, at 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.

He added, "RCEP is the only game in town given the current negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)."

For the Philippines, Rodolfo said RCEP remains an important engagement. He said 60.54 percent of the country's total trade is centered on other 15 RCEP participating countries, with more than 51.85 percent of exports going into these countries.

"Achieving a single set of rule to do business with member countries will significantly facilitate the conduct of business and spur growth of our industries," Rodolfo said.

RCEP is a 16-nation proposed free trade pact eyed to further strengthen ASEAN markets, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and its major trading partners China, South Korea, Australia, India, Japan, and New Zealand. RCEP will expand the ASEAN market from 600 million people to 3.5 billion.

Launched in November 2012, RCEP is designed to cover trade-in goods and services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property rights, competition policy, and dispute settlement, among others. It is seen as a good platform for the region to negotiate with other regional blocks.

(Editor:Li Zhaoqi) (From:xinhua)
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