DOUBTS OVER RCEP’S YEAR-END DEAD­LINE

Dis­agree­ments over sev­eral is­sues mak­ing it hard to com­plete dis­cus­sion stage

New Straits Times - - Business | World -

HANOI and New Zealand as well as South­east Asian na­tions.

The RCEP talks, which be­gan in 2012, have been given new im­pe­tus by the United States with­drawal from the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) agree­ment.

But of­fi­cials in­volved in the talks said the tar­get to com­plete the dis­cus­sion stage by year-end might be hard to meet given dis­agree­ments over sev­eral is­sues.

In­dia in par­tic­u­lar was re­luc­tant to give up on tar­iffs, they said.

“They are con­cerned that ma­jor tar­iff elim­i­na­tion will cut rev­enue and their com­pet­i­tive po­si­tion, es­pe­cially against China,” said an of­fi­cial

An­other of­fi­cial said In­dia’s po­si­tion posed the big­gest chal­lenge in yes­ter­day’s talks.

The main fo­cus of RCEP was re­duc­ing tar­iffs, al­though not as many would be cut to zero as un­der the TPP agree­ment.

Cov­er­age of ser­vices and the dig­i­tal econ­omy are more mod­est than for the other agree­ments and it would have no pro­tec­tion for labour rights or the en­vi­ron­ment.

While it may have pro­vi­sions for greater free­dom of move­ment, this is one of the po­ten­tial stick­ing points in dis­cus­sions.

“We are mak­ing progress but its still a long way to go,” said New Zealand Trade Min­is­ter Todd McClay.

“There was a re­newed de­sire to find a way to a high qual­ity out­come. But it’s go­ing to take a lot of hard work to get it done by the end of the year.”

Yes­ter­day’s meet­ing fol­lowed heated dis­cus­sions dur­ing the week­end at the first gath­er­ing of trade min­is­ters from Asia Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion coun­tries since US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s switch to an “Amer­ica First” agenda. Reuters

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