Members of ASEAN keen to finalise RCEP agreement this year
The negotiations on RCEP were last year extended into 2019 as the parties – the 10 ASEAN states and their six partners, India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – were unable to reach an agreement on key issues.Updated: Apr 14, 2019 10:17 IST
The finalisation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement within this year and enhanced regional connectivity figured in the Asean-India senior officials’ meeting, which finalised a calendar of joint activities for 2019.
The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – are keen on the early finalisation of RCEP which is being negotiated since 2013.
Busaya Mathelin, permanent secretary for foreign affairs of Thailand, the current chair of Asean, said in a tweet that the two sides, during the talks, “reaffirmed their commitment to advance Strategic Partnership, enhance regional connectivity, promote trade & investment and finalize RCEP this year”.
A statement issued by the external affairs ministry made no reference to RCEP and said the meeting, held during April 11-12, reviewed the strategic partnership and its future direction. The officials also assessed the progress in cooperation in political-security, economic and socio-cultural issues.
The negotiations on RCEP were last year extended into 2019 as the parties – the 10 Asean states and their six partners, India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – were unable to reach an agreement on key issues. Indian industry and the government have reservations on joining RCEP, mainly because it will bring the country into a free trade relationship with China and worsen a trade deficit of more than $60 billion.
The meeting, co-chaired by Mathelin and Vijay Thakur Singh, secretary (east) in the external affairs ministry, also decided to give impetus to all forms of Asean-India connectivity. In this regard, the officials welcomed the commissioning of the ERIA study on the trilateral highway and its extension to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and a proposal on formation of “digital villages” in Asean states.
The officials agreed to deepen maritime cooperation through a variety of measures, including enhanced collaboration in the “blue economy” sub-sector, and to boost cooperation in renewable energy, including holding a conference on the topic this year.