RCEP may not be inked this year

‘It will be challenging to conclude the negotiations and seal the agreement within the stipulated deadline’


The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is not expected to be completed this year as member countries struggle to reach consensus on 20 chapters which will form the fundamental of the trade bloc.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said it will be challenging for the member countries to conclude the negotiations and seal the agreement within the stipulated deadline.

“We have finished only two chapters, mainly on economic and technical cooperation, as well as small and medium enterprises. The other 20 chapters are still in progress.

“In the event we fail to meet the 2017 deadline, we hope to conclude it in the first-half of 2018,” he told the media at the Intra-Asean Investment Forum press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He said it is critical to simplify the rules and procedures under the proposed trade agreement involving the 16-country grouping.

RCEP is a free trade agreement backed by China. Its importance rose following the fallout of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the US had decided to pull out from the trade pact.

Countries in the region are banking on RCEP as a saviour for greater economic and trade relations between member countries which account for more than half of the world’s population.

Mustapa said the agreement is also looking at new sectors such as e-commerce instead of the traditional trading of goods.

He said RCEP’s officials are expected to meet in South Korea, while a ministerial meeting is scheduled for next month in Manila — the final round of discussions for this year.

Malaysia will benefit from the strengthening of trade ties with RCEP partners as tariffs and other trade barriers are dismantled.

In 2016, Asean companies invested US$23.9 billion (RM102.6 billion) in the region, a 12.2% increase compared to 2015.

Intra-Asean investment amounted to 24.76% of direct investment into Asean.

For the period between 2010 to 2016, Malaysian investments in other Asean countries

reached RM76.9 billion or 24.4% of the country’s total outward investments.

Singapore is the major investment destination (56%) with RM42.9 billion, while Indonesia takes 27.8% with RM21.4 billion.

Thailand and Vietnam each received 5.1% and 4.9% of Malaysia’s investments respectively.

Among the Malaysian companies that have expanded in Asean are CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, Malayan Banking Bhd, Petroliam National Bhd, Sime Darby Bhd, Gamuda Bhd, Muhibbah Engineering (M) Bhd, YTL Corp Bhd and Zico Law.