Duterte calls for ‘swift’ conclusion of RCEP trade deal
SINGAPORE — President Rodrigo Duterte called on Asean-member states for the “swift” conclusion of the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) after Asia-Pacific trade ministers failed to reach their year-end target of a “substantial conclusion” during the economic ministers’ meeting here.
Duterte tagged RCEP, a free trade between Southeast Asian countries and key partners, as “a centerpiece of Asean’s external economic relations.
“We must therefore work towards the swift conclusion of RCEP negotiations,” the President said in his intervention during a working dinner with Asean leaders on Tuesday night.
“Amidst prevailing uncertainties in the global economy, we must continue supporting the rules-based multilateral trading system. Trade actions contrary to this benefit no one and only threaten the prospects of economic growth,” he added.
Despite the the failure to achieve a region-wide trade pact, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said trade ministers had reached “the final stage of negotiation.”
“[We have] progressed significantly when it comes to the discussion on the regional comprehensive economic partnership,” he said.
“We are determined to finish everything by next year, 2019,” he added. “There is a big likelihood, and we even would like to have conclusion and signing by next year as well.” /atm