RCEP fails to advance
Economic ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and six trading partners announced the recalibration of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which is seen as an alternative trade pact to the aborted Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, the Asean Summit 2017 chairman, said the ministers agreed to be considerate on the timelines of RCEP but agreed to hold more negotiations on the proposed level of liberalization of trade-in goods.
“For the 11th Philippine economic priority deliverable [on RCEP], the ministers endorsed during the 5th RCEP ministerial meeting the key elements paper that would guide negotiations towards significant outcomes and give momentum towards substantial conclusions in future negotiations,” Lopez said at the conclusion of the 49th AEM in Manila.
He said there was a significant stride on RCEP talks, especially when assessed how RCEP came about and eventually went beyond Asean and the free trade negotiations. He said the endorsement reinforced Asean centrality which was the driving force for an Asean-led RCEP.