BANGKOK – After the 9th Intersessional Ministerial Meeting on 11-13 October, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would be concluded this year and signed in early 2020.

With 20 out of the 25 chapters concluded in the last meeting in Vietnam, the full conclusion of the RCEP this year is very probable. A positive report can be presented to the Heads of State when they meet for the 3rd RCEP Leaders’ Summit in November,” said Sec. Lopez.

The remaining five chapters are Rules of Origin, Trade Remedies, Trade in Services, Investment, and E-commerce. Sec. Lopez said that the trade ministers expect that the remaining chapters will be concluded before the end of the month and any remaining issue will be part of a work plan for resolution at the soonest.

To meet this deadline, two additional meetings were scheduled prior to the 3rd RCEP Leaders’ Summit. Trade negotiators will meet on 17-19 October and the results of their meeting will be presented in the next Ministerial Meeting.

The trade agreement covers 16 participating countries, which account for almost half of the world’s population, about 30 percent of global GDP, and over a quarter of world exports. The Philippines is one of the participating countries, along with the rest of the nine ASEAN member states, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

After RCEP’s conclusion, the Philippines will enjoy lower trade barriers and increased market access for its goods and services to its 15 country partners. The agreement also has a chapter on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to ensure that RCEP’s benefits are not confined to large companies.

According to Sec. Ramon Lopez, “RCEP parties are pushing for their respective interests and there are naturally complexities in the negotiations, amidst the backdrop of a changing global economic environment.”

This atmosphere has intensified in the last stretch of negotiations, but just the same, a higher level of flexibility and reasonableness are needed to ensure its conclusion,” Lopez added.♦

Date of Release: 18 October 2019