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Singapore Recommends TPP, RCEP To APEC Businesses

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

05 April 2013

In his opening remarks to the 2nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council (ABAC), Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan urged its members to take advantage of the emerging regional trade frameworks – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

While he said that: "Regional economic integration at the government level is vital, as it provides the platform for more open trade and investments," improving business-to-business connectivity through the utilization of that integration, through trade, investments, joint ventures, franchising and cross-licensing of intellectual property would create employment, innovation and wealth for the Asia-Pacific economy.

The RCEP, he added, aims to bring together the existing free trade agreements (FTAs) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, India and South Korea, into a single comprehensive agreement. This 16-member RCEP is envisioned to be 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.

RCEP negotiations are expected to commence in 2013, initially between ASEAN and its existing FTA partners, but its structure would allow the region's other economic partners to eventually accede to the agreement. In the meantime, ASEAN is also going forward to set up its ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Another development that Lee felt members of ABAC should keenly follow are the negotiations on an extension to the TPP. Singapore, he said, had just hosted the 16th round of TPP negotiations, and its current members – United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – are pleased with the progress that was made. There is an expectation that extension of the trade agreement will be concluded this year.

The TPP, he continued, "aims to be a high-quality trade agreement that provides members with comprehensive duty-free market access and reduced restrictions on services, investment and government procurement. It also seeks to reduce behind-the-border non-tariff trade barriers, as well as enhance regional connectivity by promoting consistency in regulation across member countries."

Lee hoped that the TPP, which is also open to new members, will open up new opportunities for businesses in the APEC economies.

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