7 September 2017 | Pasay, Philippines
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urged top ASEAN trade officials to remain committed in delivering the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement towards a substantial conclusion.
Top trade officials from the 10-member organization called on President Duterte on 6 September, a day before the Philippine hosting of the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Meeting and Related Meetings officially opens.
“As we continue to steer ASEAN’s direction towards our shared goal of integrating the wider region into the economic global activity, we call on the parties in the ongoing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations to remain committed in delivering the agreement towards substantial conclusion,” said President Duterte in his speech.
The Philippines endeavors to move RCEP forward, citing that agreement will provide a wide array of opportunities for all parties involved, including more exchange of goods and services, investments, more jobs and higher standard of living.
RCEP will also expand the current ASEAN market of 620 million to a huge integrated market base of 3.5 billion through the region’s dialogue partners.
President Duterte also expressed hoped for ASEAN ministers to continue supporting the development of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as to deepen efforts “to ensure that the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) commitments are fair, workable and inclusive.”
“I thank the ASEAN economic ministers, who supported the Philippine initiative, especially in providing an enabling environment for MSMEs and ensuring an inclusive, innovation-led growth in the region,” he added.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary and AEM chair Ramon Lopez introduced to the President trade officials from Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the ASEAN Secretary-General.
“The ASEAN Economic Ministers are tasked to ensure the effective implementation of ASEAN economic integration and cooperation initiatives. At this point, the 10 Ministers from ASEAN gather to discuss how continuing efforts to increase trade and investments in the region have advanced since the establishment of AEC on 31 December 2015,” said Sec. Lopez.
Sec. Lopez supported President Duterte’s call, emphasizing the need to strengthen the Philippines’ ASEAN 2017 chairmanship initiative on the development of MSMEs, which comprise the bulk of the domestic workforce and output of majority of ASEAN Member States.
The trade chief also imparted that the path of community building is “an ongoing, progressive and forward-looking process” that requires equitable access for opportunities for ASEAN citizens, recognizing the region’s diversity.
According to Sec. Lopez, ASEAN remains to outperform global growth with a combined GDP of USD 2.55 trillion and expected 4.5% GDP growth, accelerating at a phase that exceeds the global outlook.
Top trade officials from ASEAN’s key trade partners China, Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, India and Hong Kong are currently in the Philippines to discuss ways to enhance greater trade engagements between ASEAN and the respective countries that would help the region generate inclusive growth leading to shared prosperity for all.
The Philippine hosting of the 49th AEM and Related Meetings is part of the country’s chairmanship of ASEAN, coinciding with the region’s 50th anniversary. Said ministerial meeting runs until 11 September 2017.