MANILA— President Rodrigo Roa Duterte highlighted on Tuesday the significance of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and urged his fellow leaders in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its trading partners to urgently conclude the talks.
In his opening remarks during the RCEP Summit held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, President Duterte said RCEP is not simply an added trade agreement but a trade deal that could provide the size and scale to unleash new growth potentials and write the new rules of the game of the international trade order.
“By changing global economic landscape requires us to urgently bring to the negotiations to a close and to create deeper trade linkages that would demonstrate our commitment to free and open markets,” he said.
He said the pact, which brings together 16 countries, would be one of the biggest trade deals when it enters into force as it covers almost half of the world’s population and more than a third of the global GDP.
The President cited the five ministerial meetings and 20 rounds of negotiation conducted five years after RCEP was launched.
“The milestones reached in RCEP negotiations throughout the years have greatly progressed and provided substantial outcomes, particularly on areas that highlight the importance we give to the inclusive growth anchored on development and capacity building,” he said.
“The progress in the negotiations presents to us a clear picture of where we are and the work required for us to reach our goal of the high quality, credible, and mutually beneficial free trade agreement,” he added.
President Duterte noted that ASEAN in its 50th anniversary reaffirms its commitment to the free trade agreement (FTA) that balances the needs of all countries but maintains the high level of ambition.
He then expressed gratitude to the FTA partners for expressing support and for the centrality of the ASEAN in the negotiations.
At the same time, the President expressed optimism that the meeting in Manila would give the much needed political momentum to the negotiations.
ASEAN has free trade agreements with six partners namely People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.