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ASEAN Holds First Round Of RCEP Talks

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

15 May 2013

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – and its free trade agreement (FTA) partners – Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, India and South Korea – recently met in Brunei to start detailed negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The proposed RCEP, which aims to bring together the ASEAN's existing FTAs into a single comprehensive agreement, is envisioned to become one of the largest FTAs in the world, covering 3bn people and making up one-third of the world's gross domestic product at USD20 trillion.

Consistent with the RCEP Leaders' Joint Declaration on the Launch of Negotiations for the RCEP of 20 November 2012, and the Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the RCEP endorsed by RCEP Ministers on 30 August 2012, the new agreement should broaden, deepen and improve significantly all elements, including tariffs, in the existing ASEAN+1 FTAs.

The RCEP will therefore include provisions to facilitate and enhance transparency in trade and investment between the participating countries, as well as to facilitate their engagement in global and regional supply chains.

Taking into consideration the different levels of development of the participating countries, the RCEP will include appropriate forms of flexibility, including provisions for special and differential treatment, plus additional flexibility to the least-developed ASEAN member states, consistent with the existing ASEAN+1 FTAs, as applicable.

It is also envisioned that the RCEP will become a platform for future trade and investment integration in Asia. The second round of negotiation is scheduled for September 23-27, 2013, in Australia, and it is hoped to conclude the trade treaty by the end of 2015.

TAGS: tax | free trade agreement (FTA) | Brunei | Burma | India | tariffs | trade treaty | Australia | China | Laos | Philippines | Singapore | Thailand | agreements | Cambodia | Indonesia | Korea, South | Malaysia | New Zealand | import duty | trade | Japan | Vietnam

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