The Japan News - 13 October 2019
RCEP nations make headway for deal by year-end
Ministers from 16 countries, including Japan, China, South Korea and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations made headway Saturday for their goal of concluding their negotiations on the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade deal by the end of this year.
At the day’s meeting held in Bangkok, the ministers reached agreements in eight more sectors. Accords have now been made in 18 of the some 20 fields covered by the RCEP negotiations. While The Indian Commerce and Industry Minister stated that out of 25 chapters 21 chapters have been concluded. Crucial chapters of Investment, Electronic Commerce, Rules of Origin and Trade Remedies are yet to be settled.
“Finally, we are now only one step away,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara told a press conference after the meeting, adding, “We have made progress in many sectors [for concluding the talks by year-end.]”
Sugawara, who assumed the post last month, participated in an RCEP ministerial meeting for the first time.
He refrained from specifying the eight areas where agreements were reached.
According to the government of Thailand, the current chair of RCEP negotiations, an additional ministerial meeting will be held on Nov. 1, ahead of a meeting of leaders from the 16 countries on Nov. 4 in the Thai capital.
Ahead of Saturday’s plenary session, participating ministers held bilateral meetings.
The Japanese trade minister held talks with his Australian and Indian counterparts on Saturday morning and called for cooperation to conclude the free trade negotiations by the end of the year.
At the full session, participants focused on contentious areas, such as tariff elimination and reduction, and e-commerce rules.
RCEP negotiations started in 2013, covering tariff issues, investment rules and other sectors. The RCEP pact would create a huge economic bloc that covers 50 percent of the world population and 30 percent of global trade volume.
In a joint statement adopted at a summit last November, leaders from the 16 countries showed their resolve to conclude the RCEP talks within 2019, one year later than previously envisioned.
Before Saturday’s meeting, the 16 nations had reached agreements in half of the total negotiation areas, including customs procedures, economic and technological cooperation, and financial services.