09:51 | 14/09/2018 Vietnam - Asean
(VEN) - Regional and global economic ministers convening in late August in Singapore agreed to boost efforts to conclude a broad-based trade agreement by the end of the year among the 10-nation ASEAN bloc and its nine partner nations - Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the US.
The ministers recorded the progress made in 23 negotiating rounds on the 19-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and emphasized the continued priority placed by ASEAN on speedy conclusion of the agreement.
The ASEAN ministers also agreed to strengthen individual free trade agreements to ensure the lowering of trade barriers, and met their counterparts from the nine dialogue partners to discuss this goal.
The ministers reaffirmed their intention to continue bolstering regional economic resilience against external shocks, and to achieve long-term competitiveness. In particular, they agreed to redouble efforts on narrowing the development gap, enhancing connectivity including digital connectivity, preparing for the fourth industrial revolution, and achieving sustainable economic development.
The ministers reviewed the progress of economic and trade relations with non-FTA partners, praising the conclusion of the joint feasibility study for an ASEAN-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA). While noting that more work is required to align the interests of both sides, they welcomed the first exploratory discussions on a possible ASEAN-Canada FTA. The ministers also welcomed the finalization of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between ASEAN and the Eurasian Economic Commission, saying they looked forward to signing it and exploring further areas of cooperation and to understanding the regional integration objectives of both regions better.
A series of related meetings were held on the sidelines of the main event, including the 32nd ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) Council Meeting, the 21st ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) Council Meeting, the sixth RCEP Ministerial Meeting, the 11th Mekong-Japan Ministerial Meeting, and the 10th Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) Economic Ministers’ Meeting.
In his speech at the opening ceremony, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore’s chairmanship theme of “resilient and innovative” has created the momentum for ASEAN to make strides in developing the bloc’s digital economy and e-commerce, among others, which contributed to the region’s long-term competitiveness amidst the threat of escalating trade tensions and continued global uncertainties.
The grouping’s GDP growth has averaged 5.4 percent in recent years, well above the global average, and is projected to expand at about the same rate over the next five years. ASEAN is forecast to become the fourth-largest economy in the world by 2030, just behind the US, China and the European Union (EU).
Lee highlighted that strengthening regional economic cooperation and integration is the key for ASEAN to tap its potential fully, including pressing on with the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025, as well as supporting an open and inclusive multilateral system amid growing trade tensions.
Leading the Vietnamese delegation to the 50th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting was Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Quoc Khanh.