RCEP crucial amid escalation of trade war: trade minister

Singapore, (ANTARA News) – Trade agreement under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is crucial amid the escalation of the trade war between the United States and China, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita has said.

“The U.S. policy of raising import duties triggered rift between that country with China,” the Indonesian Minister said on the sidelines of the 33rd summit meeting of ASEAN in the Suntec Convention Centre, here on Tuesday.

He said the heating trade relations between the two worlds economic giants brought about negative impact on ASEAN countries.

“No one to gain from the trade war. Business people should have no enemy. We should only look for opportunities,” he said.

Indonesia does not want to be involved in trade war with any countries, he went on to say.

“On the contrary we want to be friends with both China and the United States,” he said.

He expressed regret that progress in the RCEP negotiations is slow.

“There are a number of issues on which agreement has yet to be reached between countries. There are three chapters in the agenda of debate — competition, mechanism of dispute settlement, and goods standards and quality,” he said.

He said Indonesia and other ASEAN member countries are discussing 8 of 21 chapters of the trade agreement under Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

“The eight chapters include about economic cooperation, small and medium enterprises (UMKM), customs procedure, government procurement, government regulations, competition policy, the mechanism of dispute settlement, and goods standards and quality,” he said.

Delay in the discussions on those chapters was caused by changes in the policy of ASEAN member countries to protect their respective interests.

“One example is the new government in Malaysia under Mahathir Mohammad. The Malaysian Prime Minister wanted to review multilateral and bilateral agreements. Malaysia wants that its state companies are given the priority if we discuss the issue of competition. On the other hand other ASEAN countries want an open economic system that every country could compete fairly,” he cited.

The negotiation on the RCEP agreement is expected to be substantially wrapped up in 2019, if debate on the three chapters could be concluded at the ASEAN summit meeting, he said.

The ten Economics Minister of ASEAN member countries met here to prepare for the 33rd summit meeting.

The meeting focused discussions on strategies to conclude negotiations on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) substantially before the end of 2018.

Source: ANTARA News