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The 17th ASEAN Lecture on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – Progress, Outstanding Issues and Outlook

ASEAN STUDIES CENTRE (ASC) SEMINAR
 
Friday, 8 June 2018 - The 17th ASEAN Lecture on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – Progress, Outstanding Issues and Outlook was organized by the ASEAN Studies Centre at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. The Lecture was delivered by Ms Anna Robeniol, Assistant Secretary for the Industry Development and Trade Policy Group of the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippines. Ms Robeniol is also the Philippines’ Senior Economic Officials Meeting (SEOM) Chair and Chief Negotiator for RCEP. Ms Robeniol shared her thoughts and insights on the mega trade deal that had been under negotiations since 2013 and had recently concluded the 22nd round in Singapore. 


Ms Anna Robeniol, Assistant Secretary for the Industry Development and Trade Policy Group of the Department of Trade and Industry Philippines. (Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)



Ms Robeniol began her talk with an overview on the agreement’s genesis and the progress of the negotiations. While two chapters have been concluded, chapters on trade in goods and services as well as investments are not yet finalised. She briefed about the broad negotiating areas of the agreement, including Market Access, Rules and Disciplines and Technical Cooperation, and highlighted the outstanding issues under these areas. Core issues that were listed, among others, included tariff reduction/elimination, Rules of Origin as well as those related to technical, policy and political sensitive areas. She also pointed to the fact that, while ASEAN wanted RCEP to eliminate tariffs on 92% of the traded goods, there was difference in tariff elimination outcomes in the existing ASEAN +1FTAs.


From left to right: Dr Sanchita Basu Das and Ms Robeniol (Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)

In addition to the divergent levels of economic development with regards to resources, national interests and sensitivities, the lack of bilateral FTAs between some ASEAN Free Trade Partners as well as the pressure of including the TPP issues in RCEP agreement are prolonging the negotiations. Ms Robeniol was of the view that, moving forward, the grouping would stand a chance to conclude the agreement. However, whether a big bang would happen by the end of 2018 or some RCEP participating countries would be left out, following the RCEP-X formula, still remains in question.


The participants listening intently to the lecture (Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)

Around 70 participants from the policy, business and research communities and media in Singapore attended the 17th ASEAN Lecture.

Click here for Ms Robeniol's Powerpoint Presentation.