Saturday, May 11, 2013

Asean, 6 trade partners begin talks for FTA to rival US-led trans-Pacific initiative

ASEAN and its six free-trade agreement (FTA) partners on Friday began talks for a wider pact said to rival the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

In a statement, Asean said detailed negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are in full swing with officials of the 10 Asean members—Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—as well as of its FTA partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea in attendance at their first-ever meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan.

RCEP negotiations are scheduled for completion “by the end of 2015,” Asean said.

Under the RCEP, Asean and its six FTA partners aim to:

- Achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement establishing an open trade and investment environment in the region to facilitate the expansion of regional trade and investment and contribute to global economic growth and development; and

- Boost economic growth and equitable economic development, advance economic cooperation and broaden and deepen integration in the region through the RCEP, which will build upon our existing economic linkages.

“Negotiations for the RCEP will recognize Asean centrality in the emerging regional economic architecture and the interests of Asean’s FTA partners in supporting and contributing to economic integration, equitable economic development and strengthening economic cooperation among the participating countries,” Asean said.

The RCEP is expected to have a “broader and deeper engagement with significant improvements” over the existing FTAs of Asean with each of the trading partners.

“The RCEP will include provisions to facilitate trade and investment and to enhance transparency in trade and investment relations between the participating countries, as well as to facilitate the participating countries’ engagement in global and regional supply chains,” Asean said.

The trade pact “will include appropriate forms of flexibility including provision for special and differential treatment, plus additional flexibility to the least-developed Asean member-states,” Asean added.

The second round of RCEP negotiations will be held in Australia in September.-Interaksyon

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