Major RCEP negotiations finish with significant progress
Major negotiations have just wrapped up in Beijing for the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between China, ASEAN and five other major partners -- including India and Japan. The 8th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Intercessional Ministerial Meeting was held on Friday and Saturday. Participants say important progress has been made. Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua is now urging all parties to work hard to reach the goal of completing all negotiations this year.
It is the first time a ministerial-level RCEP meeting was held in China.
Over the past two days, participants concluded talks in the areas of finance, telecommunications, and other professional services. Overall, more than two-thirds of the negotiations around market access have been finalized since 2012. And, more than 80 percent of the entire agreement's wording has already been decided.
In the opening ceremony of the event, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua said significant progress has been made while noting that some of the differences between states are hard and sensitive to negotiate.
Regarding market access, Hu says goods, investment and services are the core areas up for discussion. He spoke about China's proposals in this regard.
"Forming an integrated, regional and major market is our common goal. While opening up our own markets, we will also gain the opportunity to access other member states' markets. We hope each party thinks in the long-term, and based on the general balance, facilitates our work creatively and takes a more flexible stance ... This is so that we can reach an agreement that can create the biggest benefits for each member."
In terms of making rules, Hu says member countries still have significant differences in e-commerce, investment, and intellectual property rights. Hu is urging members to seek common ground.
"On those sensitive issues relevant to national security, we hope all parties can understand one another, fully taking care of others' concerns, and trying to find more pragmatic and flexible solutions. On purely economic and technological issues, we hope members can decrease market barriers, facilitate trade and investment, and coordinate different stances by referring to international standards."
RCEP was initiated in 2012 by ASEAN. The negotiating parties include the ten ASEAN countries and another six nations: China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.
It aims at establishing an integrated regional market, by cutting tariffs and reducing non-tariff barriers among members.
Prior to Saturday's meeting, they have held 27 rounds of negotiations, 15 rounds of ministerial-level meetings, and two summits. The top leaders of the 16 countries have decided to finish the negotiations by the end of this year. So, it's in the final stages of negotiations.
The RCEP member states account for more than 3.5 billion people, nearly half the world's population. They contribute to about 32 percent of global GDP, and nearly 30 percent of the world's foreign trade. When the agreement is reached, it will facilitate the convergence of the local industrial chain and value chain, and allow for the integration of the regional economy.