Chances of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal being finalised by the end of the year seem slim, due to conflicting interests of the 16 participating countries in the trade agreement, according to a senior economist at the Asian Development Bank.
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Jayant Menon, lead economist at ADB’s trade and regional cooperation office, told Khmer Times yesterday that “many countries [in RECEP] had different interests” and there were difficulties trying to get the 10 members of Asean and their six trading partners – China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – to agree on a free trade agreement.
RCEP will cover nearly 3.5 billion people, making it the largest trade bloc in terms of population, as well as a third of the world’s gross domestic product and total trade.
“RCEP looks not probably happening this year. It’s more likely next year, but it is happening,” said Mr Menon.
“It’s all about compromise in areas like trade in goods and services, investments, intellectual property and e-commerce,” he added.
Mr Menon said RCEP would be a good opportunity for the 16 countries to pursue reforms related to “transparency, standardisation and harmonisation”.
“Because RCEP would create a huge market, Cambodia should prepare itself to take advantage of it,” he added.
Mr Menon said Cambodia should address key challenges to improve the skills level of workers, improve the rule of law, address corruption and reduce red tape, to make the investment climate better for investors.
Commerce Ministry’s spokeswoman Soeng Sophary said RCEP’s delay was due to each country trying their best to negotiate terms that would benefit them most.
“As member of the WTO [World Trade Organisation], Cambodia is committed to liberalise almost all sectors compared to other countries in Asean,” said Ms Sophary.
In March, Asean members agreed in Manila to cut 90 percent of tariffs in the RCEP for between 5,000 to 6,000 kinds of products over the next 15 years.