THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday said the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will push for the “early conclusion” of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) during the 33rd ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Singapore from Nov. 13 to 15.
In a Palace press briefing on Friday, Nov. 9, DFA Assistant Secretary Junever Mahilum-West said the heads of the ASEAN member-states and other stakeholders “will look into the progress in the negotiations of this very important document” during the second summit on the RCEP next week.
The RCEP is the proposed free trade agreement between the ten ASEAN member-states and the six ASEAN free trade agreement partners (Australia, People’s Republic of China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, and New Zealand).
“We were hoping that the RCEP would be concluded by the time of the summit, but it seems that we’ll have to wait a little bit longer. But…during the summit, the leaders would express their commitment to conclude the negotiations because this is very important for the region, especially in view of the rising trade developments, tensions…[and] unilateral actions, and we expect the leaders to call for the expeditious conclusion of the RCEP,” Ms. West said.
She added that the “leaders won’t say that [they] will finish [the negotiations] by this year,” but they “will call on all parties to make sure that we have an early conclusion of the agreement.”
The DFA official also announced that President Rodrigo R. Duterte “will be participating in this summit at the invitation of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.”
“This is the second and last summit of ASEAN for the year. Apart from their own meeting, the ASEAN leaders will have summits with leaders from dialogue partners in the format of the Plus One Summit. They are going to meet individually with Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States. At the ASEAN-Plus Three Summit, that means ASEAN 10 with the leaders of China, Japan and the Republic of Korean; and in the East Asia Summit, which includes Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States,” she explained.
She added that regional and international issues on peace and security, particularly in the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea, may be tackled.
According to Ms. West, during the event, “Singapore will symbolically hand over the Chairmanship of ASEAN to Thailand, and Thailand will assume as Chair at the beginning of 2019.” — Arjay L. Balinbin