The 16th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) meeting and related meetings were held from 2 to 10 December 2016 in Tangerang, Indonesia. Parallel meetings were held by the Working Groups on Trade in Goods and Trade in Services including their respective Sub-Working Groups, as well as the Working Groups on Investment, Intellectual Property, Competition, e-Commerce, and Legal and Institutional Issues. Expert consultations on Trade Remedies and Government Procurement were also held.
The Meeting was opened by Lukita, Minister of Trade of Indonesia, on 6 December 2016. The Minister emphasised that recent global developments, including the subdued economic environment, the rise of protectionism, and recent questioning of globalisation and trade, have made it all the more important for RCEP Participating Countries (RPCs) to progress RCEP negotiations towards a positive and timely conclusion. The Minister urged all RPCs to share collective responsibility in moving the negotiations forward.
The Meeting highlighted the outcomes of the 2nd Intersessional RCEP Ministerial Meeting held on 3-4 November 2016 in Cebu, Philippines, where the Ministers provided strategic guidance across all negotiating areas. The Meeting agreed to build on the outcomes as the basis to intensify negotiations, especially in the core market access areas of trade in goods, trade in services and investment. The further progress achieved in the final negotiating round for 2016 maintains momentum to keep negotiations on a good track in 2017 towards swift conclusion. The Meeting reiterated that the RCEP negotiation has its own unique dynamics drawn from the diversity of the RPCs and emphasised the need to take into account the different levels of development among RPCs while delivering the goal of a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial agreement.
The Meeting welcomed the conclusion of the chapter on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). SMEs make a significant contribution to economic growth, employment and innovation in the region and the chapter will promote information sharing and cooperation in increasing SMEs’ ability to utilise and benefit from the opportunities created by the RCEP Agreement. This is the second chapter to be concluded to date after the conclusion of the chapter on Economic and Technical Cooperation at the 15th round in Tianjin, China.
Stakeholder events with business and civil society organisations were also held during this round. In particular, the East Asia Business Council (EABC) organised the Business Stakeholder Workshop on RCEP Negotiations on 4 and 5 December 2016 and presented its outcomes and recommendations to the negotiators. Likewise, negotiators had a stakeholder engagement session with representatives from 13 international, regional and local civil society organisations and took note of their views and concerns on a wide range of issues, including particular concerns regarding possible adverse impacts of some provisions in other agreements.
The TNC also discussed the preparations for the 17th round of RCEP negotiations, scheduled from 27 February to 3 March 2017 in Kobe, Japan. The RCEP Work Programme 2017 is continuously being reviewed to ensure that meeting arrangements support the objective of achieving a swift and successful conclusion of the RCEP negotiations.