RCEP talks to be carried over to next year

By Takeyuki Hitokoto / Yomiuri Shimbun CorrespondentMANILA — Ongoing negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will be carried over to next year as a ministerial-level meeting on the proposed trade pact failed to produce an agreement on multiple items.

“We were unable to reach an agreement on several items [among the issues being negotiated] and it is therefore very difficult to come to an agreement by the end of this year,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters after the ministerial meeting on Sunday in Manila.

The RCEP involves 16 countries, including Japan, China, India and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other leaders from RCEP participating countries will gather in Manila on Tuesday. They are expected to express their resolve to reach an agreement on the pact at an early date.

At Sunday’s ministerial meeting, attendees confirmed that the RCEP participating countries will accelerate talks through frequent meetings among trade negotiators from each country next year, after narrowing down topics to be discussed.

Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez, who chaired the ministerial meeting, said the participants were close to reaching conclusions in areas including customs procedures, trade facilitation and competition.

The ASEAN member states, which are playing a leading role in the RCEP negotiations, had been seeking to reach a broad agreement on the RCEP this year — the 50th anniversary of ASEAN’s foundation. However, the negotiations have experienced difficulties, as India and other countries maintain a cautious stance regarding what percentage of tariffs to eliminate and the liberalization of investments, among other issues. Speech

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