First round of negotiations on RCEP underway
Azaraimy HH

SENIOR officials from 10 Asean member states and its six Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand and Australia, met yesterday in Brunei Darussalam to commence negotiations on the establishment of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with the convening of the 1st RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee (1st RCEP TNC).

The negotiation is a significant step towards forming an economic partnership that covers 3.3 billion people and accounts for 30 per cent of world trade. When it is in place, many believe it will be the largest free trade partnership (pact) in the world, comprising a combined GDP of about US$17.23 trillion (based on 2010 figures).

The first round of negotiations will run from May 9 to May 13. Discussions are expected to cover goods, services and investment, amongst others. The RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee was chaired by Iman Pambagyo, Director of International Trade Cooperation, Ministry of Trade, Indonesia.

The negotiations for RCEP were launched by the Asean+6 Leaders at the sidelines of the 21st Asean Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November last year, and are aimed for completion by the end of 2015. Since the launching, officials have been undertaking substantial preparatory work for the commencement of the negotiations, particularly on the parameters for negotiations.

The RCEP is envisaged to be a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement and will cover trade in goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement and other issues. Furthermore, it will reinforce the fourth pillar of the AEC, which is to ensure that the region is fully integrated into the global economy.

The Second Meeting of the RCEP TNC is scheduled to take place in Australia in September 2013.

The RCEP is an initiative which Asean views as complementing the work that is also being undertaken through other plurilateral negotiations (such as the Trans Pacific Partnership) and multilateral forums (such as the World Trade Organisation), where essentially the primary objectives are to promote greater openness and create more business-friendly environments, as well as encourage closer integration of economies. - Borneo Bulletin (10 May 2013)