Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu, has reached Siem Reap in Cambodia for the Seventh Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Intersessional Ministerial Meeting (7th RCEP ISSL MM) to be held on 2nd March 2019.The 7th RCEP ISSL MM will see bilateral sessions and opening ceremony attended by Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Mr. Hun Sen. Ministers from 16 RCEP Participating Countries (RPCs) will be attending the 7th RCEP ISSL MM. The meeting will be chaired by ChutimaBunyapraphasara, Acting Minister of Commerce of Thailand. In this meeting, developments since the second RCEP summit held on 14th November 2018 in Singapore will be reviewed, particularly the outcomes of the 2nd Special Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) meeting held on 25-26 January 2019 in Jakarta, Indonesia and the 25th RCEP TNC meeting and Related Meetings held on 19-28 February 2019 in Bali, Indonesia.Union Commerce Minister said that after 5 years of hard and intense negotiations India, at the end of the second RCEP Summit, is now perceived as the constructive player of RCEP, providing guidance and building consensus on critical areas by taking into consideration the concerns and aspirations of all member countries. This will ensure that there is no marginalization of request of smaller countries and there is room for ‘policy space’ for developing countries in transition as it will help to moderate ambitions particularly in the goods negotiations and lead to balanced and mutually beneficial outcomes.
Suresh Prabhu also lauded the role played by Singapore as chair.
During the term of the Singapore chair, several ministerial and experts’ meetings resulted in successful conclusion of five chapters taking total number of chapters concluded so far to 7 out of 16. At the RCEP Trade Ministers’ Meeting on 12-13 November 2018 Singapore deftly steered the consensus on ‘substantial progress’ instead of ‘substantial conclusion’.At the Ministerial, India’s flexibility helped in facilitating successful conclusion of three chapters, namely (i) institutional provisions; (ii) Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures and (iii) Standards, Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessment Procedure (STRACAP). In the chapter on Institutional Provisions, India agreed to the proposed ‘consensus principle’ on the understanding that the RCEP Secretariat to be set up subsequently will ensure participation of all member countries in the decision making process.The Regional Comprehensive Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between sixteen countries namely 10 countries of ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and their six FTA partners (also known as AFP’s or ASEAN FTA Partners) namely Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.The RCEP has entered the sixth year of negotiations. During the last five years 24 Rounds of negotiations at the expert level were held – the last Round was held from 18-27 October, 2018 in Auckland; six Ministerial meetings and seven inter-sessional Ministerial meetings were held so far - the 6th Ministerial meeting held on 30-31 August, 2018 in Singapore and the 7thinter-sessional Ministerial meeting held on 12-13 November, 2018 in Singapore; and two RCEP Leaders’ Summitswere held. During the 2nd RCEP Summit on 14 November 2018 in Singapore, Leaders acknowledged the ‘substantial progress’ in the negotiations and reiterated their determination to conclude a modern, comprehensive, high quality, and mutually beneficial RCEP in 2019.