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PHL urges ASEAN and trading partners to hasten RCEP talks

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez on Monday urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to expedite and complete the negotiations over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the end of the year.

"I encourage our lead negotiators to expedite negotiations without sacrificing quality and long-term economic gains to achieve a substantial conclusion of a high quality and credible agreement by the end of the year," he said during the opening of the 18th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Negotiations Committee Meeting in Pasay City.

Last month, ASEAN leaders emphasized the importance of having a free trade agreement (FTA) involving the regional block and six dialogue-partner countries to shield the region from disruptive protectionist policies.

The 10-member ASEAN comprises Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The six dialogue partners are Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

"RCEP is imperative as it holds many opportunities for all parties involved. With our markets integrated, we will be more attractive and competitive in partnering for change and engaging the world," Lopez noted.

"As host, the Philippines is keen on opening up opportunities for our micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to play an integral role in the global value chains," he said.

The ongoing talks his week is the 18th round of RCEP negotiations after the chapters on SMEs, Economic and Technical Cooperation and, in principle, the Competition Chapter have been concluded.

"It has now become important for all of us to show political willingness to move RCEP forward, especially in light of trends in some of the parts of the world where a return to protectionism are being considered," he said.

"RCEP should be an important demonstration that we continue to underscore the developmental function of international trade that benefits ultimately the broader base of the economy," he added.

Economic ministers are expected to conclude talks on the free trade deal in conjunction with the ASEAN Summit in November, Lopez earlier said. — VDS, GMA News