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ASEAN’s Lim optimistic about Single Window and RCEP in 2019

BANGKOK—ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi is optimistic that that mechanisms to further improve trade relations among the 10-member states and neighboring countries would be finalized before the year ends.

During the 3rd ASEAN Media Forum, Lim said he is looking forward to implementing the ASEAN Single Window and conclude the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

“In terms of trade facilitation, we have been working very closely with business people as well as (other stakeholders) in ASEAN to make sure that the Single Window is on track,” he said in his opening statement Monday.

“By the end of this year, before the end of this year, all ASEAN countries will be connected ... in the form of ASEAN Single Window,” he added.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte supports the implementation of the ASEAN Single Window

“We must reject the zero-sum approach to international economic relations. In pursuit of growth, we should be partners not competitors. The Philippines therefore supports the ASEAN Single Window—a concrete initiative towards a seamless cross-border trade,” Duterte said during the plenary session of the 34th ASEAN Summit on June 22.

In 2017, the Philippine Finance department said at least 20 government agencies are expected to adopt an online trading platform under the ASEAN Single Window ASW

Lim is looking at a digital trade agreement as part of ASEAN’s deliverables this year “to make sure that digital trade will be going, especially, smoothly in ASEAN.”

He hopes that the RCEP negotiations will soon be finished.

“We are quite looking at the developments in so far as the negotiations … We are optimistic that we will be pushing ahead in a couple of months to try to make way in order to conclude negotiations by the end of this year—November,” he said.

“So, the negotiators are now in China and ministers will be meeting in China at the end of this month and early August,” he added.

RCEP negotiations have been ongoing for seven years now and he does not want any further extension.

“We have seven years and we don’t want to go beyond that. If we don’t do it this year, it would be very difficult for us to go beyond next year. There is an urgency to see that this be concluded,” he said.

Aside from the negotiations in China, the economic ministers will also be meeting in Thailand in September.

“This is another venue for ministers to sit down and try to push it. The climate seems to be quite positive and we hope that we will be able to intensify our negotiation,” he said.

Launched in 2012, the China-backed RCEP aims to create a free trade agreement among the 10 ASEAN members—a market of 600 million people—with its six dialogue partners to create an even bigger market of 1.3 billion.

Countries discussing the RCEP include the 10 ASEAN-member states Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The dialogue partners for region-wide free trade agreement are Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, and New Zealand. —VDS, GMA News