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Japanese ambassador cautions versus haste in concluding RCEP

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By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

 

Japan yesterday cautioned against haste in the conclusion of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) stressing “substance is more important than timing.”

Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa said this during a “Question and Answer” portion at the General Membership Meeting of the Makati Business Club (MBC) where he was a guest speaker.

Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa

Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa

“Of course, it (RCEP)  should be concluded as soon as possible, but substance is more important than timing,” the Ambassador said in reply to a question on the apparent dominance of China under the proposed RCEP now that Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) had been mothballed by US President Donald Trump.

He stressed this point as he revealed that Japan has not really given up yet on the TPP.

Japan is a staunch supporter of TPP, a proposed FTA that sets very high level of ambitions, high quality and standards, and well-balanced goals, but which cannot move forward without the US imprimatur.

The Philippines as chair of this year’s 50th Anniversary of ASEAN is pushing for the substantial conclusion of RCEP this year to mark the ASEAN Leader’s Summit in Manila.

“I cannot prejudge the outcome of RCEP but for the time being, Japan never gave up on TPP,” Ishikawa said urging the supposed TPP member countries to do something to save the high level of ambitions of this grouping alive even under RCEP because it is for the good of the entire world.

Japan’s position was aligned with Australia’s position on RCEP. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier has urged the RCEP to salvage the spirit, standards and benchmarks created by the mothballed TPP.

In a speech on the topic “Change and Uncertainty in the Indo-Pacific Strategic Challenges and Opportunities for Australia and the Philippines” in a forum organized by the ADR Institute for Strategic and International Studies (ADRi), the visiting Australian foreign minister expressed hope that other multilateral trade negotiations, including the RCEP can take the slack left by the TPP.

She reiterated Australia’s disappointment by the move of US President Trump for not ratifying the TPP, but added, “We hope that the spirit, standards and benchmarks can be reflected elsewhere” including the RCEP negotiations where Australia is an active participant.

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