The Star, Malaysia
Asean officials in Busan to kick off free trade deal
By Mergawati Zulfakar
12 October 2015
KUALA LUMPUR: Trade officials from Asean and six of its dialogue partners are in Busan, South Korea, to kick-start a regional free trade deal that almost stalled after three years of negotiations.
The week-long meeting is taking place after trade ministers who were here for the Asean Economic Meeting, instructed their officials negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to return to the table.
The RCEP involves the 10 Asean member nations and six free trade agreement (FTA) partners namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
It is considered a major platform to forge closer economic integration by removing barriers to trade and investments in the participating countries.
The RCEP meeting follows the conclusion of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations in Atlanta recently.
It is widely speculated that China, which is not in the TPPA, will push for the conclusion of the RCEP.
Its trade minister Gao Hucheng said Beijing would evaluate the likely impact of the TPPA and acknowledged that such a pact would inevitably divert some trade and investment away from China.
A Malaysian official said the Busan meeting would negotiate market access offers in the goods, services and investment sectors.
“We are not sure what the outcome will be at this stage, but we hope there will be good progress. Expectations are high.
“This is the last meeting for the year. This is an important and critical round as we will be reporting to the leaders at the Asean Summit next month,” he added.
During a meeting between Gao and International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed here last month, Malaysia and China agreed to work closely in speeding up negotiations towards a substantial conclusion by year-end.