Trade ministers from 16 participating countries expect to achieve a breakthrough this week in the approval of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest trade deal, according to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
Lopez said the RCEP Summit, as part of the ASEAN Leaders Summit, will be held on Nov. 4. He said member-countries tried resolve the remaining issues on the rules that would govern trade and investments across 10 ASEAN countries plus six major trading partners, such as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
This year’s negotiations were sped up to cover all 20 chapters and follow the mandate given by the RCEP leaders in their last year’s meeting in Singapore.
The Trade Department said that as of end-2018, seven chapters were concluded and several ministerial and technical negotiating meetings were held this year to ensure that the remaining 13 chapters would be completed.
RCEP covers one half of the world’s population, a third of the world’s economy and a third of global trade. Considering its size and coverage, the conclusion took almost six years since negotiations began in 2012.
With the conclusion of the text-based chapters, legal scrubbing follows. There are a few remaining bilateral negotiations needed on products and services to be covered under market access, but these negotiations are mandated to be finalized by February 2020.
The agreement signing is scheduled to take place next year in Vietnam as 2020 host country.
Lopez said that for the Philippines, the agreement would create a greater market access to other RCEP countries for a wide range of products like pineapples, coconut products and bananas. Others products are auto parts, paper, soaps, airbags, footwear, tires, among others.
It will cover practically most traded items, with the exclusion of few sensitive products mostly in agriculture.
“For services, this means we can also provide services on research and development, agriculture, construction, air marine, transport services, legal, accounting, auditing, engineering, urban planning, medical, dental, distribution, environment, health services,” Lopez said.
Lopez said the RCEP conclusion would be timely as it would provide a positive milestone in a global trade environment filled with uncertainties and challenges.