In an interview on Sunday (3 May), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing stated that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement is on track to be inked by the end of this year. He also emphasised the importance of international cooperation during this pandemic period.
During the virtual interview, Mr Chan spoke to reporters: “Everyone agrees that it’s really important for us to sign the RCEP this year to bolster the confidence of the global economy and the regional economy, especially in such a difficult moment.”
“At this point in time, we are still on track for the signing by the RCEP countries at the end of the year,” he pointed out.
With 15 countries signing the agreement, the RCEP will be the world’s biggest trade pact. All Asean countries including China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea will be part of RCEP. Last year, India opted out from the deal.
India has been made an offer to rejoin discussions in the coming month, Mr Chan said as he provided an update.
Regarding India, he explained: “If India is unable to rejoin the discussions in the coming month, then the plans will continue to proceed with the legal scrubbing for the preparation for the signing at the end of the year.”
There have been intensive virtual meetings, Mr Chan said, and the signing of the agreement will not likely have significant delays.
Taking in account developments, it will be seen if the signing could proceed in a meeting or in a different way, he clarified.
According to Mr Chan, he and his counterparts from other countries believe that long-term cooperation is needed to promote recovery from the current crisis.
He emphasised that: “We need to not just manage the current situation, which is the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, but we also need to give confidence for the longer-term economic prospects for our regional countries.”
To achieve this, there is a need to try “new things to allow our economies to recover and to grow”. This includes being part of more regional agreements, Mr Chan noted.
Singapore and New Zealand initiated the joint ministerial statement on safeguarding the connectivity of the global supply chain, he commented. Many countries have also volunteered to ink the statement.
Mr Chan was optimistic as he stated: “As we see more and more countries coming on board, we stay encouraged that we have many like-minded countries that are not just playing defensive about managing the fallout from the Covid-19 situation, but they are also looking forward to plans to allow our economies to reach new heights going forward.”