China and 15 partner countries made headway on Sept 8 on accelerating the pace of negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
The aim is to reach a “balanced, high quality and mutually beneficial” result.
Leaders from China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations adopted a joint statement, stressing the importance of advancing negotiations over the regional partnership.
The statement was adopted on the sidelines of a series of summits involving ASEAN in Vientiane, the Laotian capital.
“Because China, the Republic of Korea and Japan are all manufacturing powerhouses and the main export products for the other countries are mainly agricultural products, natural resources and services, it is rational for certain countries to stress the magnitude of a balanced trade agreement,” He Jingtong, a professor of trade policy at Nankai University in Tianjin, commented.
The professor said talks on the planned partnership have made strong progress. Breakthroughs have been made in seven areas in the past 18 months, including intellectual property rights protection, a legal mechanism and competition policies.
The Chinese government has said many times that it supports ASEAN’s leading role in negotiations on the partnership and hopes the negotiations can be speeded up to promote free trade and convenience.
In 2015, leaders of the 16 countries set a goal to end negotiations on the partnership by the end of this year. But they now believe that more time will be needed to narrow their differences to strike a “balanced” trade deal.
Negotiations on the partnership started in May 2013. Since then, 14 rounds of the talks have been held.
Trade among the 16 countries amounted to $11.9 trillion last year, while their combined output reached $22.4 trillion, 30.6 percent of total global output in 2015.
Zhang Ying, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing, said, “Certain ASEAN countries are still expecting to gain some policy guarantees such as getting more favorable tariff policies for their products from bigger economies including Australia, China and the Republic of Korea before the deal is sealed.
“As many ASEAN members’ economies depend heavily on commodity and natural resources trade, the lower prices of these mining and agricultural products push them to try more policy methods to support their economies,” Zhang said.
Countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia are also speeding up the pace of building a relatively modern manufacturing foundation to improve their earning ability, Zhang added.