My fellow ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM);
Deputy Secretary General Lim Hong Hin;
To all the delegates joining us today; Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen, good morning, and welcome to the Preparatory Meeting for the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits for the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits.

Colleagues, allow me to express my heartfelt gratitude for your support for the Philippines’ chairmanship of ASEAN 2017.

This year, we’ve made good progress in getting the ASEAN Economic Community (or AEC) 2025 off the ground. We’ve managed to do this by concentrating our efforts on laying the foundation for the implementation of the AEC Blueprint 2025 through the Sectoral Action Plans (SAP) and the Consolidated Strategic Action Plan (CSAP).

We also worked doubly hard on enhancing our external partnerships. These include upgrading and enhancing our existing free trade agreements (or FTAs), intensifying our efforts to complete on-going FTA negotiations, considering new FTA partnerships, and strengthening our economic cooperation mechanisms. Nonetheless, there is much work that needs to be done in order to ensure that we stay the course.

Today’s meeting agenda covers very critical areas that are instrumental in advancing the region’s internal integration process, as well as in our economic integration efforts with our external partners.

We have as our major agenda the preparations for the 15th AEC Council, wherein we will take stock of on what we have accomplished thus far in moving the AEC forward.

We are also set to discuss outstanding issues in FTA negotiations. This year, significant progress has been achieved in moving the negotiations for the Protocol to Amend the ASEAN Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (AJCEP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to where it is today. But there are still areas that need to be further deliberated and ironed out if we are to finally conclude the negotiations.

  • In particular is the preparations for the Informal AEM-METI of Japan Consultations, which will take place later today. During our Consultations with Japan, we will discuss the only remaining issue to date that withholds the finalization of the Protocol on the AJCEP.
  • Another important agenda item that we will tackle today is the preparations for the Preparatory RCEP Ministerial Meeting. Discussions will focus on the Collective Assessment Paper to the Leaders and the Joint Leaders’ Statement on the RCEP. I understand the Assessment Paper provides an inventory of measures/targets that can be completed this year, those that need to be further discussed, and those that require reconsideration of current mandates. This is a welcome progress as it gives everyone a comprehensive overview of what has been achieved in the past 20 Rounds of RCEP Negotiations and gives us a sense of direction of where to proceed and what to focus our attention on. The outcomes of this meeting is expected to lead up to the RCEP Leaders Summit this 14 November 2017.

With this, I would like to thank everyone for your continued commitment to the AEC agenda and I look forward to more meaningful exchanges. Thank you and mabuhay!