Apec’s Bol­lard: Talks un­likely to lead to top-notch trade pact

New Straits Times - - Business -

SIN­GA­PORE: Talks on an Asia trade pact are un­likely to lead to a top-notch deal, ac­cord­ing to Asi­aPa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (Apec) sec­re­tar­iat chief Alan Bol­lard, even if wrap­ping it up quickly would send a mes­sage that the na­tions still pri­ori­tise free trade.

“The 16-na­tion Re­gional Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship (RCEP) may be signed this year, which would be a step for­ward but it’s not go­ing to be a high level agree­ment,” said Bol­lard yes­ter­day.

The RCEP has taken on added im­por­tance af­ter United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with­drew the US from a Pa­cific deal.

His ac­tions threw the fu­ture of the 12-na­tion Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) — a deal that did not in­clude China — into doubt, and his pro­tec­tion­ist rhetoric more broadly has sparked con­cern about the out­look for glob­al­i­sa­tion and free trade.

The RCEP is more of a tra­di­tional trade pact than the TPP — which cov­ered is­sues in­clud­ing in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and sta­te­owned en­ter­prises.

Sin­ga­pore’s Trade Min­is­ter Lim Hng Kiang said yes­ter­day the RCEP talks were pro­gress­ing well but can move faster, a sig­nal that dif­fer­ences re­main among na­tions in­volved.

Bol­lard said a meet­ing in Viet­nam of Apec trade min­is­ters this month would be a chance for mem­ber na­tions to pro­mote free trade and re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion. Bloomberg

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