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Asian trade deal nations discuss ending tariffs on over 90 percent of goods

By The Nation   June 26, 2016 | 08:15 pm PT
The free trade zone between the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand is working on a detailed plan to remove tariffs on 92 percent of goods traded within the economic zone, according to Thailand's daily newspaper The Nation.

The Regional Cooperation on Economic Partnership (RCEP), which has ASEAN as the centre in collaboration with Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, is a proposed free trade agreement launched in 2012.

Sirinart Chaimun, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said although ASEAN countries wanted the agreement to be finalised by the end of this year, there was still some disagreements over the proposal.

RCEP countries will need to vote and negotiate on the tariff elimination at the upcoming ministerial level meeting on August 5 in Laos.

The agreement will the be submitted to the Leaders Summit in September this year.

Ronnarong Phoolpipat, deputy director-general of the department and chief Thai negotiator for the RCEP, said officials are trying to wrap up discussions before September.

The next RCEP meeting is scheduled for August 15-19 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Issues for discussion include the liberalisation of trade in goods, services, and investment, intellectual property rights, laws, rules of origin, customs procedures, trade facilitation, sanitary and psyto-sanitary standards, technical barriers, electronic commerce, finance, telecommunications and economic cooperation.

To hear the voices of all concerned parties, RCEP countries will also be open for a public hearing from all those involved sectors, mainly private enterprises, via Twitter and email.

Previously, RCEP countries had agreed that they would reduce tariffs to zero on 65 percent of goods - about 8,000 - 9,000 goods items - while tariffs on 20 percent of goods will be reduced to zero within 10 years after the implementation of the RCEP. Tariffs on the remaining 15 percent of goods will be negotiated in the future, as they are considered sensitive products by each country.

The RCEP will also discuss whether it can cut tariffs on 100 percent of goods or reduce the list of sensitive goods as much as possible, he said.

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