DTI chief pushes for pragmatic direction in RCEP deal

TOKYO—Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez urged his fellow ministers to be more realistic to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP.

Lopez represented the Philippines during the fifth RCEP Intercessional Meeting in Tokyo on June 30 to July 2 where he joined Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Asean Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock-Hoi, and trade ministers from the 16 RCEP Participating Countries (RPC), namely the Asean 10 and Asean free-trade partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. The group targets to finish negotiations this year to finalize the agreement by next year.

“It is about time we shift gears and lean toward being more realistic than idealistic. While we attend to our own interests, we should also remember that a mutually beneficial agreement requires trade-offs,” Lopez said.

“We should also keep in mind this mega-regional trade pact should be inclusive and progressive and should cater not only to today’s generation but also of the future,” he added.

The free-trade agreement that began negotiations in 2013 covers trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement and other issues. On trade in goods, some countries’ submissions were still below the targeted 92 percent for tariff elimination. RPCs committed to submit improved offers by the middle of July.

Meanwhile, Lopez commended the progress on e-commerce for closing several articles in the RCEP Key Elements Paper. He said e-commerce significantly lowers the barriers to entry and operating costs for businesses, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which comprise 99.6 percent of all registered businesses in the Philippines.

The RPCs will meet again in Singapore this August to assess the outcome of the 23rd round of negotiations in Bangkok, Thailand.

Once concluded, RCEP will be one of the biggest free-trade agreements with the 16 participating countries accounting for almost half of the world’s population, 31.6 percent of global output, 28.5 percent of global trade and a fifth of the global foreign direct investment inflows as of 2016.

Article from https://businessmirror.com.ph/

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