Duterte pushes for conclusion of Asia-Pacific free trade deal

By Alexis Romero

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Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, walks past Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, after a group photo session of the leaders from the ASEAN and their Dialogue Partners which comprises the East Asia Summit at the 31st ASEAN Summit Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Manila, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez, Pool

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday called for the completion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, saying the deal could unleash new growth potentials in the region.

"It is important to recall the point of RCEP. It is not simply an added trade agreement but a trade agreement that could provide the size and scale to unleash new growth potentials and write the new rules of the game of the international trade order," Duterte said during the RCEP Summit.

"By changing global economic landscape requires us to urgently bring to the negotiations to a close and to create deeper trade linkages that would demonstrate our commitment to free and open markets," he added.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: ASEAN Summit in the Philippines

RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Launched in 2012 during the 21st ASEAN Summit in Cambodia, the deal aims to cover trade in goods and services, economic and technical cooperation, investments, competition policy, intellectual property rights, and dispute settlement among other aspects.

The ASEAN and its trading partners have agreed to defer the completion of the RCEP negotiations to next year.

There have been five ministerial meetings and 20 rounds of talks on the RCEP, the latest of which was hosted by South Korea last month.  

"Bringing together 16 countries, RCEP would be one of the biggest trade deals when it enters into force, covering almost half of the world's population and more than a third of the global GDP (gross domestic product)," Duterte said.

Duterte said ASEAN remains committed to a free trade agreement that "balances the needs of all countries but maintains the high level of ambition."

"The milestones reached in RCEP negotiations throughout the years have greatly progressed and provided substantial outcomes, particularly on areas that highlight the importance we give to the inclusive growth anchored on development and capacity building," he added.

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