Asean, China, Japan, S. Korea reaffirm commitment to multilateral trading system

By DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By AFP

ASEAN member states, as well as China, Japan and South Korea, reaffirmed their strong commitment to upholding an open, inclusive, transparent, non-discriminatory and rules-based multilateral trading system.

This comes amid concerns on the rising tide of protectionism and anti-globalisation sentiments.

In a joint statement upon the conclusion of the 22nd Asean Economic Ministers (AEM) Plus Three Consultations, the representing ministers reiterated their full support to the endeavour to reform the World Trade Organisation.

While acknowledging the global outlook in economic and trade performance as well as the recent moderation of growth, the economic ministers also noted that trade continues to expand between Asean and the Plus Three Countries (Asean+3).

“There are concerns over the rising tide of protectionism and anti-globalisation sentiments that continue to plague the global economy and put the multilateral trading system at risk,” the statement said.

Additionally, the ministers reiterated their support for an enhanced regional economic integration.

“The ministers welcomed the progress in the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and reiterated their full support towards the conclusion of the RCEP negotiations in 2019 as mandated by the RCEP leaders, to create a modern, comprehensive, high quality and mutually beneficial agreement,” it added.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) flows from the Plus Three Countries into Asean were valued at US$37.9 billion (RM158.04 billion) in 2018, accounting for 24.5% of total FDI inflows into Asean and an increase of 9.9% from the previous year.

The total trade increased by 6.8% to US$869.1 billion, representing 31% of Asean’s total merchandise trade.

The ministers also underscored the importance of multilateralism and regionalism in contributing to global and regional peace, stability and prosperity.

In the statement, they noted the progress of activities undertaken through the Asean+3 Cooperation Work Programme 2019-2020, which was adopted by the 21st AEM Plus Three Consultations in 2018.

The ministers were encouraged by the progress made in the areas of connectivity, micro, small and medium enterprises development, as well as trade facilitation, and reaffirmed the commitment to continuously enhance trade and economic cooperation within the region.

The ministers noted the status of the joint study on “10+3 Cooperation for the Improvement of Supply Chain Connectivity,” which was agreed-in-principle by ministers in August last year and welcomed by the 21st Asean+3 Summit in November last year.

Co-chairman, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit (picture) said the consultation was an important drive for the regional economy to move forward.

“Economic ministers of Asean+3 agreed that there must be a way to promote trade, investment amidst uncertainty in the global economy and the RCEP consultations should be concluded within this year as it would greatly facilitate trade and economy for the 16 RCEP participating countries,” he said.

The 16 countries agreed earlier that they would clear all remaining issues in an officials’ meeting to be held in Da Nang, Vietnam, later this month. The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 Asean members and six Asia-Pacific countries with which Asean has free trade agreements — Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.