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Fifth Round Of RCEP Talks Held In Singapore

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

03 July 2014

The fifth round of negotiations for the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its free trade agreement (FTA) partners – China, South Korea, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand – was held in Singapore from June 21 to 27.

The RCEP should bring together those existing FTAs completed by ASEAN – whose member countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – into a single comprehensive agreement by the end of 2015.

Its aim is to broaden, deepen, and improve significantly all elements of those agreements, including tariffs, and chapters relating to the market liberalization for services and investment, intellectual property, competition, and legal matters, such as dispute resolution.

It was reported that it has not yet been possible to agree on the actual extent of tariff reductions, consensus only having been reached on such matters as methods of tariff bargaining, non-tariff barriers and other technical issues. As a result, doubts are being expressed as to whether it will be possible to adhere to the original target of completing the RCEP by December next year.

RCEP negotiations began in Brunei in May 2013, with the first RCEP Ministerial Meeting also being held there in August last year. It is envisioned that an agreement would form one of the largest FTAs in the world, covering three billion people and one-third of the world's gross domestic product at around USD20 trillion. It is expected to become the platform for future trade and investment integration in Asia.

The latest talks also made preparations for the second RCEP Ministerial Meeting, which is scheduled to be held in August this year, and which, it is hoped, will provide an impetus to future negotiations. It was agreed that the next round of negotiations will be held in India at the beginning of December.

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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