SINGAPORE — Economic ministers and officials of 16 Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) parties gathered in Singapore for the RCEP Ministerial Meeting on 12–13 November 2018 to continue the negotiations and finalization of several chapters of the RCEP Agreement. The RCEP parties comprise the 10 ASEAN member states (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam); as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, and New Zealand.

Department Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez represented the Philippines (PH) in the ministerial meeting. “The RCEP negotiations and discussions have progressed substantially this year and has reached the final stage. The Ministers have resolved to conclude the RCEP in 2019. This is our sixth ministerial meeting for 2018, and is a very important one as we advance the negotiations towards its conclusion by next year. The Philippines, together with other RCEP parties, will greatly benefit from this partnership especially in harnessing the economic benefits from promoting trade, investment, employment, and economic growth,” the PH trade chief said.

Since RCEP Agreement negotiations commenced in 2012, seven chapters (out of eighteen) of the Agreement have been concluded to date, and these encompass Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation (CPTF); Government Procurement (GP); Institutional Provisions; Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) Measures; Standards, Trade Regulations, and Conformity Assessment Procedures (STRACAP); Small and Medium Enterprises (SME); and Economic and Technical Cooperation (ECOTECH).

We have now entered the most critical stage of the negotiations, with a greater focus on Market Access for Goods, Investments, and Services”, said Sec. Lopez.

Each country wants to bring home a good deal for their people. Of course for the Philippines, we are looking at the overall balance across areas to ensure all Filipinos can enjoy the benefits of this economic partnership,” the trade chief explained.

Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will be joining the 2nd RCEP Leaders Summit on 14 November to welcome the substantial progress made in the RCEP negotiations, and to push for its conclusion by next year.

Once completed, RCEP will be the largest free trade agreement in the world. It is also a mega regional trade pact that the ASEAN is engaged in, with a huge contribution in terms of GDP and consumer-based patronage. This pact will provide market opportunities to all the 16 participating countries, impart higher standard of living due to the vast choice of goods and services, and contribute greater job generation.♦

Date of Release: 13 November 2018