Screencap of all attendees during the virtual 8th RCEP Intersessional Ministerial Meeting (8th RCEP MM) held on 27 August 2020

MANILA—Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez reported that the recent meeting of the trade ministers of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) participating countries resolved almost all remaining outstanding issues of the trade deal. 

During the virtual 8th RCEP Intersessional Ministerial Meeting (8th RCEP MM) held on 27 August 2020, the trade ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its five partners—namely, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea—, advanced significantly the negotiation, which paves the way to its signing in November 2020. 

“While there were many challenges along the way, we kept our focus on the value and importance of RCEP and the merit of fostering regional cooperation,” Sec. Lopez said. 

He added: “The conclusion of RCEP negotiation is a good symbol that notwithstanding the current pandemic, many great things can be accomplished, such as the affirmation of an international rules-based system for trade and investment in the region.” 

Launched in November 2012, RCEP is an initiative by ASEAN to encourage trade among its member states and its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners. Without India, RCEP accounts for 30% of the world’s global population at 2.2 billion and 28.2% of the global GDP at a combined USD23.9 trillion, much larger than other regional trading blocs. 

The bloc would also account for 27.8% of the total trade at USD10.5 trillion, with USD5.5 trillion in exports and USD4.9 trillion in imports, and contribute to 23.6% of global inward foreign direct investment (FDI) and 33.5% of global outward (FDI). 

“With RCEP, enhanced market access for trade and investment will be established. This means that the Philippines can improve its export competitiveness in key products—such as garments, automotive parts, and agricultural products like canned food and preserved fruits—while encouraging more investments in the country in vital sectors such as research and development, financial services, game development, and IT-BPO,” said lead negotiator Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty. 

Sec. Lopez added: “RCEP is a major milestone for the region and its partners, and is definitely more comprehensive than any FTA of ASEAN.” 

Notwithstanding the significant progress of the negotiations, the trade ministers remained open to the participation of India in RCEP. 

Meanwhile, the Trade Secretary also cited that the momentous trade deal, poised to be signed by November this year, will have a major impact on jobs for the Filipino people and the enhanced participation of MSMEs in the global value chain. 

“We are optimistic for the future of the country as we are set to conclude a historic milestone, especially in this time of crisis and the region’s post-pandemic recovery,” Sec. Lopez said. ♦

Date of Release: 27 August 2020