RCEP members pledge to ramp up negotiations

Economic ministers from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – a proposed free trade agreement between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand) – pledged to ramp up their negotiating efforts on an extensive regional free trade deal, following a meeting in Pasay City, Philippines. The mega trade agreement aims to cover goods, services, investment, competition policy, and intellectual property rights, among other issues. The next negotiating round for RCEP is scheduled for mid-October in Korea. RCEP would cover more than 3.5 billion people, or half the world’s population, and 30% of global gross domestic product and trade. Although the RCEP countries will likely not meet the target of concluding the negotiations within this year due to differences in tariff reduction as well as services to be opened up, they aim to achieve a significant breakthrough when the leaders of ASEAN and their dialogue partners meet in November.