The 4th round of negotiations on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) was opened in Nanning, Guangxi on March 31. A total of 500 representatives from 10 ASEAN countries, China, Japan, ROK, India, Australia and New Zealand attended the negotiations. The Chinese delegation was headed by Assistant Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen, and was composed by representatives from the Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture, the General Administration of Customs, State Administration for Industry and Commerce and General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
Mr. Wang welcomed the representatives in his speech at the opening ceremony on behalf of China which hosts the negotiations for the first time. Mr. Wang said that RCEP is the most comprehensive regional trade agreement, with the population of the member states accounting for nearly 50% of the global population, and GDP and trade volume reaching 30% of the world total. In recent years, the growth rate of bilateral trade between China and the RCEP members is much faster than the average growth rate of China's foreign trade, which shows the huge potential of trade development in East Asia. Once the agreement is reached, it would benefit all the members, optimize regional production network and value chains, promote regional prosperity and development, and contribute to accelerating global economic growth.
Mr. Wang said that much progress has been made after three rounds of negotiations over the past year. Negotiations on market access liberalization and text of related sectors have entered the stage of substantive progress, and all parties have reached a preliminary agreement in such areas as tariff reduction mode, rules of origin, customs procedures, trade facilitation and establishing rules and mechanisms. Seven working groups of trade in goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property rights, competition policy and dispute settlement were established, and two working groups of rules of origin and customs procedures and trade facilitation were established for the trade in goods, and discussion among the panel in such areas as standards, technical regulations and assessment procedures and sanitary and phytosanitary measure were carried out.
Mr. Wang said that the road to complete RCEP negotiations remains long and winding due to the differences in development and the positions of all parties, and it is necessary for the 16 countries to cope with the difficulties through much more determination, wisdom and creativity. He put forward three proposals on accelerating the negotiation process, enhancing the level of liberalization and taking care of concerns of all parties so as to advance related work and complete the goals to conclude the negotiations in 2015.
Mr. Wang stressed that China, as an important participant and promoter of RCEP negotiations, will continue to play an active role, and as the host country of the negotiations and a country coordinator for ASEAN FTA partner, China hopes to work with all parties to push forward the negotiations to achieve positive results.
Mr. Zhang Xiaoqin, Vice Chairman of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and Iman Pan Bako , Chairman of ASEAN of the Negotiating Committee delivered a speech at the opening ceremony respectively. Chairman Chen Wu and Vice Chairman Zhang Xiaoqin of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Assistant Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen met with the chief negotiator of all parties.
The negotiations lasted for five days, and all parties discussed such topics as tariff reduction mode, services and investment liberalization as well as framework of the agreement.
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