Regional trade talks to start on Monday

National 1 minute, 23 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE eleventh round of trade negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will kick off in Brunei this Monday.

Senior officials from 16 nations will be in the Sultanate from February 15 to 19 to hash out the details of the region-wide trade pact, aiming to produce “concrete outcomes” to meet the 2016 deadline.

According to the Japanese foreign ministry, officials will participate in working groups on trade in goods, services and investment.

The RCEP is a free trade agreement involving the 10 ASEAN countries and their dialogue partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Negotiations for the pact began in May 2013 during Brunei’s chairmanship of ASEAN.

Following the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur last year, trade ministers instructed officials to “further intensify their efforts” to conclude negotiations in 2016.

“With half of the world’s population and almost 30 per cent of the world’s output and trade, the RCEP offers immense potential to improve the standard of living for billions of people,” as noted by ASEAN trade ministers in a statement last November.

“We resolve to ensure that the RCEP delivers on its potential to serve as a growth driver and a key pathway for broader economic integration in the region,” according to the statement.

The realisation of the trade pact could lead to the creation of one of the largest free trade areas in the world, with an integrated market comprising over three billion people with a combined gross domestic product of about US$17.23 trillion ($23.9 billion).

Along with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the RCEP is seen as a key building block to a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific.

The Brunei Times