Philippine fails in RCEP target conclusion
In an interview yesterday, Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said contentious issues remain unresolved among the 16 nations that are part of the mega trade deal, most of which are between ASEAN’s dialogue partners. File
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines failed to meet one of its priority deliverables for its 2017 ASEAN chairmanship as the planned “substantial conclusion” for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has not been achieved.
Nonetheless, the Philippines considered its 2017 ASEAN chairmanship a “tremendous success,” having been able to deliver on 10 of its 11 priority agenda.
“Our main goal as chair of the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) in the past year has been to ensure that those at the bottom of the pyramid can participate in trade through the development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). We are committed in having ASEAN’s economic growth through deeper regional integration be inclusive via efforts in complementation, cooperation and collaboration where everyone emerges as winners,” Trade Secretary and AEM chair Ramon Lopez said in a statement yesterday.
“The substantial conclusion of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, however, still remains as a work in progress. Nonetheless, the level of engagement for the RCEP has been unprecedented,” he added.
In an interview yesterday, Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo said contentious issues remain unresolved among the 16 nations that are part of the mega trade deal, most of which are between ASEAN’s dialogue partners.
“It is not a standstill because we have made strides to move forward. It is just that we cannot conclude it this year. But we’re endeavoring to finish all these next year, which I think is very possible, to have a significant conclusion,” Rodolfo said.
For Lopez, significant progress in the ongoing RCEP negotiations has been achieved, especially with the finalization of the scope of the RCEP Key Elements for Significant Outcomes by end of 2017 and the Collective Assessment Report.
“In view of the large potential of the RCEP to promote global trade and growth, we will remain deeply committed to swiftly and successfully achieving a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually-beneficial RCEP agreement that will redound to increased job generation, and sustainable, inclusive and innovation-oriented growth,” Lopez said.
The Philippines has targeted to reach a substantial conclusion of RCEP negotiations this year, particularly by this month as it hosts the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit.
A substantial conclusion, according to Lopez, is reaching an agreement on broad parameters as to what will be the content, the level of liberalization, the timing, and value-added inclusions in the agreement.
The Philippines, however, has “fully and technically” achieved its other economic priority deliverables such as the completion of the Focused and Strategic Action Agenda on Investment, adoption of the ASEAN Seamless Trade Facilitation Indicators by the AEMs, the operationalization of the ASEAN Roll-On, Roll-Off connecting Davao-General Santos to Bitung, and the development of the ASEAN Inclusive Business Framework to promote inclusive business in the region, among others.
The country was also able to reach substantial conclusion of the discussions on the region-wide self-certification scheme which is targeted to be fully implemented by 2018, as well as the substantial conclusion of the ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement which would further facilitate trade in services integration in the region through deepened commitments and increased transparency.
“On top of these, the Philippines has been able to also shepherd the conclusion of key negotiations that are already under discussions even prior to our hosting year, and commenced discussions with external partners with a view to strengthen and deepen trade and economic relations,” Lopez said.