High Level Forum Marks 10 Years Of RCEP Journey

The now active Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement which will establish ASEAN and its partners as formidable trade partners was a well-conceived plan mooted by the regional nation 10 years ago. In a joint effort, all nations came together in agreement on the need for such a partnership and will now guide RCEP on its journey.

During a forum organised by ASEAN, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen underscored the need to refrain from protectionism and to uphold a rules-based trading system. For his part, Cambodia’s Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak added that the inclusive and effective implementation of the RCEP Agreement would be an essential element in the post-pandemic economic recovery efforts that is made vulnerable by the uncertainties in global trade.

The first high-level panel discussion was joined by Prof. Mari Elka Pangestu, Han-koo Yeo, Dato Lim Jock Hoi, and Iman Pambagyo. In the first high-level panel discussion, the panellists shared their perspectives on the genesis of RCEP – from conceptualisation, launch of the negotiations, to the signing of the RCEP Agreement. The panellists highlighted the central role of ASEAN as the driver of the process throughout the journey with ASEAN as the initiator of the RCEP as a mega-free trade agreement for the Asia Pacific region. ASEAN also often acted as a mediator between the ASEAN and non-ASEAN countries.

The second high-level panel discussion was joined by Satvinder Singh, Prof. Shujiro Urata, and Dr. Sanchita Basu-das. In the second high-level panel discussion, panellists shared their perspectives on the lessons learned from the eight-year negotiation of the RCEP Agreement and its future. The discussion highlighted that the most crucial task for the RCEP Parties and signatory States now is to promote the RCEP Agreement in order for businesses to utilise the Agreement.

They also expressed that the RCEP Agreement should consider incorporating elements that will contribute to the strengthening of the supply chain, as well as elements that could address current and future challenges such as sustainability and digitalisation. The panellists underscored the need for an expedient establishment of the RCEP Secretariat for monitoring, stakeholders’ engagement and capacity-building purposes.

Meanwhile, Iman Pambagyo from Indonesia, who chaired the RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee for the eight years of negotiations, was awarded the “Merit of the Great Class” by King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia as presented by Minister Pan Sorasak.

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