Stronger political will needed to conclude RCEP in 2017


STRONGER political will is very much needed if the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) were to be concluded by the end of this year.

This was agreed by the 16 participating countries at the fifth RCEP Ministerial Meeting in Manila last Sunday, as representatives unanimously agreed to make their utmost effort to bring the RCEP deal to conclusion.

“Member countries should continue improving market access offers and strengthen trade-facilitating rules to realise the immense potential of RCEP,” a joint statement from the members read.

RCEP is the world’s largest trade bloc in the making, covering nearly one-third of the world economy in 2016.

Malaysia largely sees the deal as the best alternative after the death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

The 49th Asean Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM) and related meetings held in Pasay City, Manila, were attended by 16 ministers — 10 from Asean — and six of its dialogue partners, namely China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

The ministers also acknowledged the fact that there is still a lot of work remaining and every participating country should “focus both efforts and resources to maximise progress of the deal.”

For 2017, the annual AEM was held with the theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” and adopted “to promote inclusive, innovation-led growth” as its pillar.

The five-day meeting — that was held from Sept 7 to Sept 11 — saw several key economic and integration discussions held between the Asean countries and its partners.

Among the notable achievements were the conclusion of the AseanHong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement and Asean-Hong Kong, China Investment Agreement negotiations during the second AEM-Hong Kong, China Consultations.

Leading the Malaysian delegation, Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed called on Asean member states to enhance collaboration among national investment agencies at both the bilateral and regional levels.

Malaysia will also continue championing efforts to resolve the long-standing issues of non-tariff barriers and non-tariff measures, in line with the aspiration of the Asean Economic Community.