MANILA — Asia-Pacific trade ministers will gather in Hanoi, Vietnam this weekend for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting and an intercessional meeting of the 16 participating countries of the ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The APEC MRT will convene on May 20-21 to discuss uncertainties about the future of trade in the region and identify steps to counter the rising skepticism on globalization, as well as the rapid social and technological change.
Before leaving for Hanoi on Friday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters that the 21 APEC trade ministers and senior trade officials will “re-forward” the region’s agenda on technical economic and trade cooperations, and discuss the possibility of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).
Lopez however noted that the negotiation for FTAAP is not yet seen in the near-term, as APEC is still undertaking studies on the benefits of having a free trade deal in the region.
Following the bigger APEC MRT meeting, 16 countries — mostly APEC member economies — will convene in an intercessional meeting for the RCEP.
Unlike the non-binding principle of APEC, the RCEP will move forward discussions on trade liberalization to conclude the text for the free trade agreement.
Last week, the 18th RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee and Related Meetings took place in Manila to find solutions on remaining trade issues, such as the range of inclusion of goods to be traded duty-free among the 16 countries.
“I don’t have the report (from the meeting) yet. We’ll take it up there and move it forward before the big meeting in September,” Lopez said.
The 16 RCEP participating countries are the 10 ASEAN member countries — Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam — and its six dialogue partners — Australia, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Japan, and India.
Except for RCEP participating countries Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and India, the rest are part of APEC.
The other APEC member economies are Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, and the United States. Kris M. Crismundo/PNA